KMTC HongKong a container ship caught fire at Laem Chabang, Thailand on the 25th of May 2019.. It was reported that 35 containers were on board when the ship caught fire..
Port Authority director Kamolsak Phromprayoon has been quoted as saying that “after a lot of efforts, the port officers successfully put out the fire late on Saturday.“..
The investigation team which was sent to inspect the damage on the KMTC Hongkong on Sunday found Calcium Hypochlorite in 13 containers and Chlorinated Paraffin Wax in 5 other containers and concluded that the ignition of these toxic chemicals is the most plausible cause of fire..
The Nation has reported that the Thailand Port Authority has disclosed that the hazardous goods on board the KMTC HongKong were not declared and that some of the containers were said to contain Dolls..!!
As per Kamolsak, the owners of the shipments had not declared these toxic chemicals to the Thai Customs Office, so the officers did not know what was inside the container..
“Generally, every shipment of toxic chemicals, including transferring of shipment, has to be declared before they enter our ports. 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,” Kamolsak said.
The fire and the burning chemicals caused noxious smoke and the acidic ashes raining down triggered the evacuation of many communities around the seaport..
However, the threat from hazardous air pollution caused by the burning of chemicals had receded to safe levels as per The Pollution Control Department (PCD)..
The PCD is coordinating with Thailand Port Authority to place floating booms around the area to prevent further chemical contamination in the sea as some of the water and foam, used for extinguishing the fire, had leaked into the sea..
Calcium Hypochlorite becomes extremely acidic when it reacts with water and since this information was not available, it led to more problems, as firefighters used water to put out the fire..
The Nation quoted Somnuck Jongmeewasin, a leading environmental expert of EEC Watch, as saying “the incident showed that the Thailand Port Authority had completely failed to handle the situation by withholding critical information about the chemicals inside the ship. This had caused preventable harm to the local people and their own officers.”
“As we have watched the news from yesterday, we were all very certain that there must be chemicals in the ship and the Thailand Port Authority only provided us with a very wide description of the chemicals. So, both firefighting officers at the scene, the local people and medical staff treating the injured people did not know what they were really dealing with,” Somnuck said..
“This lack of information contributed to improper protection against chemical exposure for the officers at the site, danger to people around the seaport, and made it harder for medical personnel to treat the injured people.”
“The Thailand Port Authority needs to heighten surveillance of every shipment that passes through its seaports, or else we could suffer from a deadly chemical blast, like what happened in Tianjin port in China, in the future,” he cautioned..
This issue once again raises the question of the misdeclaration of cargoes especially hazardous goods and the attitude of trade towards this important issue..
Perhaps one of the solutions would be to inspect every hazardous container as it seems shippers may not be taking this as seriously as it should be..
If SOLAS VGM can be done on every single container that is loaded, am sure hazardous containers can be inspected..