MODU Ocean Express Disaster 1976

Matthew Williams

Abstract


The MODU Ocean Express was a self elevating mobile offshore drilling unit operating in the Gulf of Mexico East of Mustang Island off Corpus Christi Bay, Texas. On April 14th 1976, the Ocean Express was under tow to another drilling destination approximately 33 miles away executed by a third party barge mover and three assistance tugs. On the morning of April 14th the Ocean Express departed Block 803 for Block A-57 on what industry deemed a short move with an unaccounted for deadweight, decreased freeboard and a noticeable port list.
Near midnight on the 14th once the rig arrived and began jacking operations at the new site, the weather deteriorated and the seas worsened. The mat at the base of the jacking legs was held in a less-than-ideal intermediate position and the barge mover order the tugs to hold fast and wait out the weather. The heavy seas burst one tow line connecting the tug off the bow of the Ocean Express. Shifting weights on deck and lack of directional control from the tugs in combination with flooding due to boarding seas and possible grounding caused the developments of a starboard list and eventual capsizing of the platform late in the evening of April 15th.
The platform was successfully evacuated of all crew members including the barge mover; however the third of three survival capsules launched capsized, claiming the lives of 13 of the 20 crew aboard.

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