Skirting of standard regulations to blame for 'KMTC Hongkong' disaster

Skirting of standard regulations to blame for 'KMTC Hongkong' disaster

Officials on Tuesday test the water around the HTMC Hongkong cargo ship which carried containers that exploded injuring 133 people on Saturday. (Photo by Pollution Control Department)
Officials on Tuesday test the water around the HTMC Hongkong cargo ship which carried containers that exploded injuring 133 people on Saturday. (Photo by Pollution Control Department)

The container fire on May 25 could have been even more disastrous if it took place while the KMTC Hongkong was at its destination port in Samut Prakan, where large oil depots are scattered around the area, says a source working at one of the country's major shipping lines.

After off-loading the containers at Laem Chabang Port, the KMTC Hongkong was expected to head to the pier in Samut Prakan to unload 13 containers loaded with 325 tonnes of calcium hypochlorite.

Asked about a tightening of rules after the blaze at Laem Chabang Port, the source said the incident could have been averted if the regulations had been strictly enforced in the first place, noting it was similar to the case of hundreds of containers full with illegal plastic scrap and toxic garbage held at ports.

The source said the cargo carrier should know what it is transporting.

When the goods are packed into containers and ready for loading, someone is supposed to examine and verify that the goods to be loaded match the goods declared in their shipping contract, said the source.

"The management of the cargo vessel must find out what goods the vessel will be transporting. It is the captain's duty to know and he can't afford the risk of transporting prohibited or contraband goods," said the source.

When the vessel docks, its crew is required to submit a cargo declaration form to the port.

Whether or not the containers are offloaded, the goods must be declared. If hazardous substances are on board, even if they are not offloaded, the carrier must show the manifest sheet and stowage plan.

"But in reality, if these containers are not offloaded, they [crews] don't bother to declare the goods and authorities do nothing about it. Apparently, it is becoming the norm," said the source.

The port officials are also required to verify that the cargo in the containers matches the cargo declared, they added.


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