The Loss of the DB29


This is what I was able to write in my newsletter the other day about this accident:

“On the last day of October this year a crane barge, the DB-1 sank in shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico. When I started searching for a bit more information about the accident I came up with stuff about the loss of the DB29, a derrick barge owned by McDermott back in August 1991. The barge had been laying pipe for an offshore oilfield in the South China Sea and at the time of the sinking was on passage being towed by the tug Typhoon. What little information is available is provided by the Bradford Telegraph and Argus which reported on the coroner’s court convened to determine the cause of death of one of the divers who had been in sat during the passage. He and three other divers were lost as well as a further 22 crew members. The evidence provided to the court included some from a man who had travelled from New Zealand. The witness seemed to be suggesting that the barge had been overloaded, and that it was being towed, having no propulsion of its own, to a place of safety where it could wait out the typhoon. But it seems that under deck spaces began to fill up with water, and the deck cargo began to move about. Frustratingly for marine people with an interest, these witnesses are essentially amateurs whose view of the misfortune is conditioned by their lack of technical knowledge. Probably the management of this object would have just seen the loss as bad luck, but as usual it is more likely to have been the result of lack of knowledge of the marine environment.”

I was wondering if anyone on this forum could shed more light on this accident which has not had much media space as far as I can tell, possible because most of the crew were Malayan and the thing was registered in Panama.


I was Marine Advisor on board DB 29 while working off Sarawak a few months before her sinking and followed the news of her capsize and sinking very closely at the time.
As you say there are very little to find about this incident, but I found this on youtube:

Apparently the Incident Report are available on this website, if anybody have an account:

The Sat-dive set on DB29 was of the portable type. It was not “float free”, not attached to any Hyperbaric Lifeboat. or escape chamber and the bell could only hold 2 pers.
IOW; without any escape possibilities for the divers in saturation.

Here is the “float-free” Escape chamber on another Construction barge:

Instructions to anybody finding and recovering this Escape Chamber:

The big question asked at the time was; Why wasn’t the POB reduced to min. require for transit?
Why was operation continuing so late that divers were still in saturation on transit?
Who was in charge at the time and were there any Marine expertise on board.

PS> The reason I was on board for the job in Sarawak was because the Oilco. demanded Marine expertise, even in the benign waters there. (No typhoons possible)

I’ll try to refresh my memory and see if I can find any more info from that time.


It happened again, 11 years later:


From this website (Page 5):


Has anyone compared this casualty to the 1995 loss of the DLB269(?) written about so well by Michael Kreiger in his book “All the Men in the Sea”? At first glance there seems to be several similarities with this loss - especially with regards to the sat divers. As a OSV master I learned a lot about what can be done to provide support before and during a mass casualty marine event from this book.


I only vaguely remember hearing and reading about this accident, happening far away from S.E.Asia.
This was originally Brown & Root’s Lay Barge “Meaders” (BAR 269) but ended up with McDermott as DLB 269.

Here is her history in a Wikipedia page of Dutch origin:,_1967)


I have not yet read the reports on the 29 in detail, but from what I have, it is possible that there are more similarities than one might expect. The book was done as a journalistic enquirer and there seems to have been many mistakes made. If someone compared the events, he might be able to determine if the lessons learned were lost, resulting in another tragic loss. If memory serves me well, I think the barge had been put under another operator.