Investigators found calcium hypochlorite in 13 containers and chlorinated paraffin wax in an additional five.
Undeclared flammable chemicals are believed to have caused a fire and explosion on board the KMTC Hong Kong containership Saturday morning at Thailand’s eastern Laem Chabang port that resulted in more than 130 people being taken to the hospital.
Of the 35 containers that remained on the ship, an inspection team found calcium hypochlorite in 13 containers and chlorinated paraffin wax in five others, “so it could be concluded that the ignition of these toxic chemicals is the most plausible cause of fire,” according to a translated article from The Nation.
Port Authority Director Kamolsak Phromprayoon said the owners of the shipments had not declared the toxic chemicals to the Thai Customs Office, so the officers did not know the contents of the cargoes, which resulted in Saturday’s preliminary report that there were no toxic chemicals on board and the cargo only contained dolls.
“Generally, every shipment of toxic chemicals, including transferring of shipment, has to be declared before they enter our ports,” he said according to the article. “But as the ship’s company had not declared these toxic chemicals, it would be the duty of the shipping company to claim the damage from the shipment’s owners.”
Maersk, which banned shipments of calcium hypochlorite in 2015, announced in September it developed “risk-based dangerous goods stowage principles” following the fire aboard the Maersk Honam that resulted in the death of five crew members. Grimaldi Group, an Italian shipowner that has had two ships — Grande America and Grande Europa — suffer fires this year, urged the International Maritime Organization “to make mandatory the certification by a classification society of the correct stuffing of containers carrying dangerous goods” in mid-May after the Grande Europa had two fires within hours.
Andrew Kinsey, senior risk consultant at the insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, told American Shipper in January he did not believe there was a need for stricter measures for dangerous goods. There was a need, though, for improved compliance with existing regulations as well as “greater vigilance in inspection and prosecution of people who are not complying.”
The fire on the 1,585-TEU KMTC Hong Kong erupted about 6:45 a.m. local time while it was moored at terminal A2, according to the Bangkok Post, which reported the blaze was brought under control later in the day.
The blast, which occurred about 8 a.m. local time, according to The Nation, sent clouds of white powder into the air along with the black smoke from the fire. Communities around the Laem Chabang Seaport were evacuated following reports of noxious smoke and acidic ashes raining down over the villages, The Nation reported, and the Pollution Control Department has since announced the threat from hazardous air pollution receded to safe levels.
Kamolsak said Monday the damage from the fire would exceed Bt100 million ($3.14 million).
“We still cannot put an exact figure on the extent of the damage from the fire as the damage is widespread,” he said, according to an article by The Nation.
The vessel is the smallest of three ships on the KMTC/HMM – New Thailand Service, which also features calls in Busan, Gwangyang, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh, according to Blue Water Reporting.