Friday, 27 July 2012

Crewman killed in tanker blast

LABUAN: A crewman was killed and four others are missing after a fire raged for 18 hours onboard the MV Bunga Alpinia 3 tanker at the Petronas methanol jetty at Pulau Enoe here.

The tanker, MV Bunga Alpinia 3, is believed to have been struck by lightning during a thunderstorm as it was being loaded with methanol at about 2.30am yesterday.

Firemen and personnel from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency were continuing their search for the four who were believed to have jumped off the tanker after the fire triggered multiple explosions.

The fire was brought under control at about 8pm yesterday but firefighters said they expected the flames would take a few more hours to be extinguished before they could board the tanker to search for the missing crewmen.

A charred body recovered from the jetty was identified as Shahril Azmi Baharudin, 28, from Malacca. The body has been sent to the Labuan nucleus hospital.

Police have identified the missing crewmen as Muhammad Nazrin Khamasani, 20, from Kuala Lumpur, Mohd Hanafi Khalil, 24, from Malacca, Zahari Hassim, 46, from Negri Sembilan and Filipino Colanggoy Errol Calaluan, 22.

Labuan police chief Supt Saiman Kasran confirmed that witnesses had reported the fire occuring during flashes of lightning.

He said the 38,000DWT chemical tanker, 172.87m-long and 32m-wide, had a crew of 27, of whom 22 were working when the fire broke out.

Nineteen of them escaped with three suffering slight burns while the remaining five were seen jumping off the tanker when the explosions started.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Sabah chief First Admiral M.Karunathi said an attempt had been made to pull the ship out of the wharf with a tugboat but the cable burned.

The tanker drifted about 20m and was “sitting on a shallow seabed”.

Ship owners MISC Berhad said in a statement that the crew members comprised 23 Malaysians and six Filipinos.

Labuan fire chief Zainal Madasin said 71 firemen fought the blaze which destroyed nearly half of the ship.

In PETALING JAYA, maritime technology experts say that lightning strikes or fires on ships carrying volatile cargo are rare.

Prof Omar Yaakob of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said: “There have been two incidents in the country in the past five years where tanker ships being repaired in dockyards caught fire when flammable vapour from their tanks came into contact with sparks,” said Omar.

“But a tanker catching fire while in operation is almost unheard of as tankers are subject to much higher safety standards than normal ships.”

Another maritime safety expert said ships were equipped with onboard lightning arrestors to channel the current from any lightning strike into the sea.
Source : TheStar


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