Precis File
SHIP NAME:Burmah AgateKEY:NUM. ENTRIES:6
sourceSIS83
typeD
volume
material
dead32
link

collision while at anchor, 4 mi off Galveston Bay, good weather, FX, grounding FX, 32 killed


sourceOSCH
typeA
volume254761B
materialNigeran crude
dead31
link

On the morning of November 1, 1979, the Burmah Agate and the Mimosa collided at the entrance to Galveston Harbor. The Mimosa struck the Burmah Agate on its starboard side, tearing an 8 by 15 foot hole in the hull near Cargo Tank No. 5. An explosion occurred upon impact, and the leaking oil ignited. The USCG immediately dispatched the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant to begin search and rescue operations. By 1230 all 26 crew members of the Mimosa had been found, but only 6 of the Burmah Agate's 37 crew members were accounted for. The owners of the Burmah Agate assumed responsibility for the spill response. They contracted Clean Water, Inc. for cleanup operations, and Smit International Inc. to fight fires on the Burmah Agate, and to assist in salvage. The Burmah Agate burned until January 8, 1980 and was towed to Brownsville, Texas on February 1 for scrapping.

Booms and skimmers were deployed to protect beaches. Seasonal winds kept most of the oil offshore, however, heavy concentrations of oil washed ashore at Galveston and San Jose Island. Lighter concentrations of oil impacted Padre Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. Oil came ashore on November 5 at Galveston Jetties and East Beach, and cleanup began immediately. Oil impacted the Matagorda Peninsula on November 6. On November 9, six barrels of oil impacted 437 yards of marshes and sand beaches around Smith Point and five areas on Galveston Island. The Smith Point area was the only inland area impacted by oil. The marsh areas were not cleaned up because response efforts could have caused greater damage than the oiling. Boom was deployed in the San Luis Pass area and there was an attempt to deploy a Marco skimmer in that area. A crane from Galveston was necessary to deploy the skimmer. By November 12, a slick composed of sheen and mousse in windrows extended 8.5 miles WSW of the tanker. Oil in the form of small tarballs impacted Padre Island near Mansfield Pass on November 13. Approximately eight barrels of oil came ashore at Padre Island where no cleanup was done. Heavy concentrations of oil impacted Galveston beaches on November 18. The heaviest impacts of oil occurred near Jamaica Beach November 19-21. On November 24, Jamaica Beach was cleaned with Vacalls. Streamers were observed near Bolivar Peninsula on November 27. Most of the oil burned in the ship or in the water near the ship, however by December 7, a 19 mile long slick extended to the SSW of the tanker. Most of the oil spilled from the tanker was blended crude with the remainder the heavier Nigerian crude. Thirty-eight per cent of the oil carried by the Burmah Agate was recovered through lightering operations. Of the remaining oil, an estimated 1.7 per cent was picked up by skimmers, .5 per cent impacted beaches, 48 per cent burned, and 12 per cent dispersed offshore. Ultimately, 2,100 barrels impacted various beaches and marshes.

The G and H Towing Company tugs The Judge, Carol Hayden, and R.C. Hayden fought the fire under the direction of the Commanding Officer of the USCGC Valiant until Smit International, Inc. personnel arrived. The G and H tugs were not manned by trained firefighters, and they had a tendency to leave effective fire fighting positions when explosions occurred aboard the tanker. The G and H tugs continued under the direction of Smit International, Inc. personnel until better vessels were procured. On November 2, the GST arrived with 612 feet of Open Water Oil Containment and Recovery System (OWOCRS) and two Air-Deliverable Anti-Pollution Transfer Systems (ADAPTS) . Western Marine provided boats for the deployment of the GST's equipment. The shipping lanes into Galveston were closed in both directions for a short time on the first day of the incident, and again on November 5 while the Mimosa was towed to Galveston.


sourceUSCG-Loy
typeA
volume
material
deadmore than 30
link

STATE OF THE COAST GUARD ADDRESS

Admiral James M. Loy
State of the Coast Guard Address
Andrews Air Force Base
May 4, 1999

Story Two: Burmah Agate/Mimosa

Thirteen years later, on Halloween of 1979, I brought CGC Valiant to the pier in Galveston, Texas, after a long law enforcement patrol. We granted liberty and I drove home with my family. Just before 0530 the next morning, my phone rang.

The M/T Burmah Agate, inbound with a full load of fuel, both bunkers and cargo, had collided with the outbound freighter Mimosa just outside the Galveston Bay Entrance Channel. Valiant was underway within an hour to assume the role of On Scene Commander.

The first 24 hours demanded frantic action to save lives and prevent the disaster from escalating. When Valiant arrived, the Burmah Agate lay aground, its superstructure aft completely engulfed in flames with other fires raging along its starboard side and on its forecastle. The Mimosa was also ablaze, but it was making way, not under command, carving huge circles about her starboard anchor, which she had somehow managed to drop. Then-Captain, now retired Rear Admiral, Dave Ciancaglini and two other aircraft commanders led heroic helicopter crews on sortie after sortie to rescue crewmen from the burning decks. The disaster had already killed more than thirty sailors. It promised to get much worse as the slowly circling Mimosa worked its way across the buoyed channel, heading inexorably toward a field of active and capped gas pipes and other anchored shipping.

We got our Rescue and Assistance team aboard the Mimosa, but they could not stop its movement: up forward, the port anchor was frozen in place; back aft, the intensity of the fire kept them from reaching the emergency cut-off valves that would have denied fuel to the engines. Finally, just as we prepared to interpose Valiant between the Mimosa and further disaster, the combined efforts of a commercial tug and Group Galveston small boats succeeded in fouling her screw, and stopping the burning ship. One disaster was averted, but we still had two ships on fire, one loaded with 400,000 barrels of oil. It took six weeks for the fire on Burmah Agate to burn itself out, and the work to clean the beaches of Galveston Island lasted until Christmas.


sourceHOOKE
typeA
volume
material
dead
link

The 61,674 dwt Liberian motor tanker Burmah Agate, en route from Bahamas to Houston, carrying 390,000 barrels of Nigerian light crude and blended crude oil, was involved in a major collision with the Liberain motor bulk carrier Mimosa while at anchor about four miles off the entrance to Galveston Bay during the pre-dawn darkness of November 1, 1979. Both vessels immediately burst into flames, with an ever increasing oil slick also catching fire. Coast Guard helicopters quickly arrived on the scene to lift the surviving crewmen to safety but it was too late for most of the crew of the Burmah Agate. 32 men died on the tanker as a result of the conflagration and continuing explosions. Such was the impact of the collision that she was almost sliced in two, while the Mimosa was fire damaged from stem to stern, her accommodation completely gutted and her holds 1, 2, 4 and 5 open. Her hull was cut horizontally for a distance of 150 feet on the starboard side and 100 feet on the port side. he continued to circle for hours as her engine was left running with her rudder jammed hard, posing a threat to nearby offshore oil drilling platforms. Tugs eventually managed to bring the Mimosa under control. She had been en route from Houston to Mobile, in ballast, at the time of the incident. Miraculously, all her 26 crewmen escaped death, being safely picked up without loss.

The following day the smouldering hulk of the Burmah Agate erupted with flaming oil when a tank at the stern ruptured, scateering fireboats that had been trying to save her remaining cargo. No injuries were reported but the blazing tanker was then put aground, still leaking oil, six miles outh of Galveston Bay entrance. Three more explosions shook the shattered tanker on November 6, spill enve more crude into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil polluted over 160 mile sof the Texas coast from Galveston Island southwards.


sourceCAHILL-C
typeD
volume
material
dead
link

Cahill's investigation of this casualty was badly handicapped by the fact that everybody on the Agate bridge was killed. We have no info from the Agate side. Altho the Mimosa claimed they saw the Agate about 10 minutes before the collision 10 degrees on the port bow, the Board was disinclined to believe this. The Mimosa apparently did not detect the Agate until she was only 0.3 miles away, crossing port to starboard in front of them. At that point, the Mimosa went hard port, but struck the Agate starboard side aft at about 30-40 degree angle. The Agate was probably maneuvering at very low or nil speed waiting for the pilot. Cahill found the watchkeeping on the Mimosa horribly sloppy. The fact that it turned out that both the Captain and Chief Engineer had fraudulently obtained their licenses also turned the Board against the Mimosa. Strangely, Cahill does not point out that the Agate had positioned herself perpendicular to a busy channel in a manner that make her the giveway vessel for any outbound ship.


sourceCTX
typeA
volume
material
dead
link

Hooke claims Agate was anchored, Admiral Loy's first hand accounts make it clear she was underway. Cahill agrees pointing out that she had been told the night before to wait until 0500 the next day, anchored 8-9 miles seaward of the sea-buoy, had weighed anchored at 0413, to proceed to the entrance to pick up pilot. There would have been little point in re-anchoring. Best guess is she was drifting or barely underway. Everybody on board the Agate who could tell us was killed.

CTX is not so sure all the blame should be put on the Mimosa. The Agate was probably maneuvering at very low or nil speed waiting for the pilot. Her motion would be difficult to detect and predict. She would have been easy to confuse with all the oil platforms. especially since some reports say she had her deck lights on, which would have made her running lights very hard to see. It is a high traffic area. Waiting for a pilot right at the entrance of a busy ship channel in the darkness is not smart. It is quite possible she detected the Mimosa's approach and put power on to get out of the way. But she would have had little control over direction until she got steerageway. Anyway she had positioned herself perpendicular to the channel in a position where she was the give way ship to any outbound vessel.

Hooke says "Such was the impact that she [Agate] was almost sliced in two. [Mimosa's] hull was cut horizontally 150 ft on the starboard side and 100 ft on the port side." The Agate had a beam of 32 m (104 ft). But the Agate never broke in two. This is also slightly inconsistent with Cahill's report of a 30-40 degree impact angle which combined with 100 ft on Mimosa port bow would give a DOP of about 15 m. The best picture we have shows the penetration extended a long way fore and aft, and at least a third of the way into the hull. But impossible to see where it stops. The damage extends a long way fore and aft, but it is impossible to determine the angle of impact from this picture. Cahill says "the tanker's hull was ripped open exposing three of her cargo tanks" which is consistent with both the picture and what must have been a very rapid explosion. The OSHA report of an 8x15 foot hole is ridiculous. For now CTX is calling the depth of penetration 15 m which is probably conservative.

We need the USCG or NTSB investigation report.