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Old 04-27-2018, 11:59 AM   #1
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Anyone ever had a steel fuel tank fail?

Hi All,

My ship is 40 years old this year. The original steel fuel tanks have no "rust" to speak of. Old looking steel yes. The original SS water tanks are also in good shape. Has anyone ever had one of these tanks fail? I can only imagine the monumental task it would be to yard out these steel tanks.

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Old 04-27-2018, 12:04 PM   #2
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Worked for a company in Key West that repaired steel shrimp boat tanks. They were big enough to torch a hole in the side so we could crawl in and weld patches. Shrimpers would empty the tank while fishing, fill it half full of salt water and a jug of Joy dish soap. By the time the got to shore the tanks were super clean.
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Old 04-27-2018, 12:49 PM   #3
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gingerly scraping off surface corrosion on sides of my 33 year old IG 125 gallon tanks. Mostly minor surface pitting that I'm hitting with scotch brite, wire brush, and 320 grit. Area under stbd fill pipe looks worse, plan to tackle that today. Plan to use a borescope to check bottom if possible, hull sides, then interior.

Monumental task to me is what do I do with 250 gal of diesel if I find serious corrosion? I'm guessing I can cut the tanks up into small pieces with a stack of cutoff wheels and good earmuffs.

Stuffing boxes throw up a fine mist so I'm going to macgyver some type of plastic cover out of milk jugs?
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Old 04-27-2018, 01:27 PM   #4
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I helped a friend with a leaky steel tank in a older GB. Rain water leaked on to the top of the tank rusted though and then rusted from the inside. It was a mess. My feeling is if they are clean and dry they should last a very long time.

Fred P..........
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Old 04-27-2018, 01:40 PM   #5
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I have a rusted out one now . I am weighing my options now . I'm not sure I will ever need 300 gallons.
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Old 04-27-2018, 02:03 PM   #6
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I joined a long list of owners of 30 year old trawlers who had to replace their tanks. But a pain and a great expense.
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Old 04-27-2018, 02:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredp View Post
I helped a friend with a leaky steel tank in a older GB. Rain water leaked on to the top of the tank rusted though and then rusted from the inside. It was a mess. My feeling is if they are clean and dry they should last a very long time.

Fred P..........
I had a Bruce Roberts 44 with steel hull and the hull was one side of the steel tanks. Water from the galley rusted thru the top and then thru the bottom. The choices I had were to cut the tanks out along with the side of the hull and replate the hull, or put bladders in the tanks, or sell the boat. I sold the boat.

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Old 04-27-2018, 02:37 PM   #8
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Replaced fuel tanks

Check out my post from a couple of years ago.
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Old 04-27-2018, 04:11 PM   #9
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Failure of a steel tank. Originally Bay Pelican had two 350 mild steel tanks. When the starboard tank started leaking I decided to replace both tanks. I relied on the port tank until it was time for the replacement. The starboard tank had been filled with salt water to level the boat. After draining and replacing the starboard tank we started working on the port tank. Since we were using blades to cut the tank we rinsed the tank with water leaving a good 6" of water at the bottom.

When we started pulling the plywood off the engine room wall to get to the tank, the tank burst along a rust seam dumping all the water which was in the tank into the bilge. If that burst had occurred underway a week earlier when there was diesel in the tank the result could have been catastrophic.
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Old 04-27-2018, 04:50 PM   #10
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There is a company here in the PNW called FELIX industries that coats the inside of leaking diesel tanks with a proprietary product. They have a long list of success stories and the job can be done in place.
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Old 04-27-2018, 05:36 PM   #11
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Just finished checking bottom exterior of tanks with borescope. Two limber holes under each tank but essentially inaccessible. Wish I hadn't looked. Plenty of corrosion.

There was a lot of corrosion around the fill pipes on the top of the tanks but scotch brite and rustoleum took care of that. Unlikely a pin hole in the top will dump 125 gal into the bilge.

The ext bottom is another matter entirely. Just a question of when, not if. I think I can get several more years but hours through a pounding sea is going to have me in a state of anxiety. I might rethink next fall's project list.
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Old 04-27-2018, 06:36 PM   #12
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There is a company here in the PNW called FELIX industries that coats the inside of leaking diesel tanks with a proprietary product. They have a long list of success stories and the job can be done in place.
There is no reason such a repair cannot be done successfully: riveted aircraft structures have had wet wings for decades. Polysulfide sealants can be amazingly effective when used correctly with the proper preparation, priming and cure. The problem comes in getting access to do so, and the time needed and resulting expense of doing a proper job under very difficult conditions. It is one thing to spend tens of thousands on a million dollar aircraft, it is quite another on a TT....
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Old 04-27-2018, 06:50 PM   #13
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My original 30 year old stainless tanks corroded from the bottom exterior due to them sitting directly on an unventilated surface and moisture collecting in under the tank.


I replaced both tanks without much trouble when I had the engine out. It would have been a much more difficult job with the engine in place.


New tanks were mounted on tapered strips of plastic decking to allow ventilation, and to slope tanks towards the drain valve on the new tanks. It should be now be good for the life of the boat.
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Old 04-27-2018, 08:33 PM   #14
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Fuel tank

Two photos should be included. The problem starboard and clean Port 200 gallon each tank.
First noticed an odor then a small stain on white oil absorbing towels. No easy access, used a tiny camera and found dirt and corrosion on the top near the fill.... saws-all removed engine-room wall and then cut tank into many hunks, all looked fine till one of the last hunk, a fifty cent spot of rust and a pinhole very close to the tank bottom.

Iíve postponed repairs.... mulling, do I do both tanks now... one looks great..... if I only do one tank itís going to be much smaller 50 gallon est. Need to go over and around Engine and generator..... I am not going to pull engine. $$$ thirty year old trawler in great shape, but value to costs...

So if I do one tank Iím thinking Iíd use it as a Day tank, pump fuel from existing 200 gallon tank as needed. My head scratcher is balancing the vessel. What do use ballast? The removed tank weight est 400lbs empty. New tank >100 lbs.
Changing Fuel max 200 gal port side, 50 gallons starboard.
Any thoughts.
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Old 04-27-2018, 08:52 PM   #15
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So What - went through this a couple of years ago - I feel your pain. I pumped the fuel off, had the yard circulate, filter, and drum it up. After all the QA (air pressure test, etc) on the new tanks and installation, pumped the drummed fuel back aboard. Didn't waste a drop.
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Old 04-27-2018, 08:54 PM   #16
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One of my 125 gallon tanks sprung a leak on the old boat. They were in the laz and fairly easy to remove once the generator camo out.

Sand blasted to bare metal, had the bad spots cut out and replaced and a second access/cleanout on the top. Also added pick uos and returns for a polishing systemTwo coats of mil spec. epoxy primer and three coars of white epoxy. Looked great when done.

Also had to replace the stringers under the tanks but that is another story.


Rob

Photos 1 after sand blasting. 2 Holes, this section was cut out
3 two cleanouts per tank 4 ready to install. My great brother in law Dick helping seal cleanouts.
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Old 04-27-2018, 08:59 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Capecodder View Post
Two photos should be included. The problem starboard and clean Port 200 gallon each tank.
First noticed an odor then a small stain on white oil absorbing towels. No easy access, used a tiny camera and found dirt and corrosion on the top near the fill.... saws-all removed engine-room wall and then cut tank into many hunks, all looked fine till one of the last hunk, a fifty cent spot of rust and a pinhole very close to the tank bottom.

I’ve postponed repairs.... mulling, do I do both tanks now... one looks great..... if I only do one tank it’s going to be much smaller 50 gallon est. Need to go over and around Engine and generator..... I am not going to pull engine. $$$ thirty year old trawler in great shape, but value to costs...

So if I do one tank I’m thinking I’d use it as a Day tank, pump fuel from existing 200 gallon tank as needed. My head scratcher is balancing the vessel. What do use ballast? The removed tank weight est 400lbs empty. New tank >100 lbs.
Changing Fuel max 200 gal port side, 50 gallons starboard.
Any thoughts.
I had small pin holes due to rust on the top of one of my tanks. Based on your pictures it looks like you have good access. I would degrease the areas, sand if possible, JB weld big hole and then Marintex the top. Look into POR 15 rust coating. You could use in and then Marinetex the top.
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Old 04-27-2018, 09:04 PM   #18
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Greetings,
Mr. C. Hoo boy. What are the possibilities of putting in 2 or 3 50 gal tanks and plumb them together? Perhaps a stout box with a 150 gallon bladder inside?

I see what you're trying to do but you've taken 400+ lbs out of the starboard side as well as a +/- variable of another 1600 lbs in fuel. IF you put in the 50 gal day tank and ballast the starboard side, to level the boat, as you use fuel from the port side, you'll develop a starboard list with no way to correct it other than adding more fuel to the port.

I suppose you could add a port bladder and fill it with water ballast as necessary BUT that's a LOT of fiddling around IMO.
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Old 04-27-2018, 09:39 PM   #19
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Thank you Dave, access was not good to start... the photos were taken with a tiny camera on the end of a stick..... the holes on the top were an extra find... it was the the the one at the bottom outside against the hull behind a few ribs... that was leaking, we didnít find the hole till the tank was removed.

Mr. RT,
That been my headache, the 400lbs is easier, itís the variable fuel load... I donít burn much fuel 2+ gallons an hour, and carrying >100 gallons 50 a side is not an issue, .. but itís when I want to pop over to Bermuda or cross an ocean ;-)..
Itís the possibility of wanting to Carry full tanks Bahamas.. or some how the 200 got filled.... by the next owner...

Thank you
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Old 04-27-2018, 10:33 PM   #20
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Been there, done that. $12k later I have half the capacity in nice new aluminum tanks. It's only a matter of time and luck.
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