A 38,000 dwt chemical tanker ‘Bunga Alpinia’ was almost destroyed by fire and explosions yesterday morning, while loading methanol at Labuan. It is believed that the accident was caused by lightning, due to heavy rain during the loading procedures, which resulted in several explosions.
In a statement this morning, the owners of the vessel, Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC), stated that the fire had been contained. The company confirmed that the 38,000 DWT IMO II tanker had 29 crew on board at the time of the incident, comprising 23 Malaysians and six Filipinos. Of those, 24 had been brought to shore, one had died and four were missing.
Petronas Chemicals Group official reported that after the second explosion, a warning had been issued in order to evacuate surrounding (1km radius) immediately. The impact of the explosion had shaken some of the facilities within the terminal and broke some of the glass in the building and affected the ceilings.
The Labuan Fire & Rescue Department is due to conduct an assessment of the vessel before authorising a search effort to be conducted on board for the missing four crew members.
MISC said that it had mobilised industry experts to support the Malaysian authorities in ensuring the continued protection of the environment, vessel and community surrounding the area. The company claimed that it was also co-operating fully with the authorities in relation to the investigations.
The fire was said to have raged for 18 hours on board the vessel, which was berthed at the Petronas methanol jetty at Pulau Enoe, Labuan.
The ‘Bunga Alpinia’ is now sitting on a shallow seabed after firemen and maritime officials failed to pull her off the wharf during the height of the fire. Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Sabah chief First Admiral Karunathi said an attempt had been made to pull the ship from the wharf using a tug but the cable burned.
Labuan police confirmed that witnesses had reported the fire occuring during flashes of lightning, according to local news reports.
Videos from the Accident can be found HERE.