The Hong Kong registered bulk carrier "Nego Kim" was on a time
charter, to load scrap steel at the ports of Fremantle, Adelaide
and Dampier for discharge in Indonesia and Singapore. "Nego
Kim" departed from Adelaide, Australia for Dampier, Western Australia
at about 2000 hours on 9 November 2001. At about 0200 hours
on 17 November 2001, "Nego Kim" arrived Dampier with about 17,200
tonnes of scrap steel on board. At about 1630 hours on 18
November 2001, while she was waiting for her berth, an explosion
occurred in the No.1 port Topside Water Ballast Tank (TBT) causing
substantial damage to the topside tank (see Figures 1 and 2).
The incident resulted in the death of 5 crewmembers and 3 other
crewmembers remaining missing, presumed dead, who were engaged
in spray painting work of No.1 port TBT.
The proximate cause of the explosion was ignition of accumulated
flammable mixture of air and paint fumes present in the No.1 port
TBT. Factors that appears to have contributed to the explosion
are listed below. These are associated with procedures that
did not comply with the paint manufacturer's data sheet:-
the force ventilation of
the tank was not adequate leading to the creation of an
the volume of thinners used
in the mixing of the epoxy paint was far in excess of the
the portable lighting in used were not intrinsically
safe or explosion proof.
The Master, the C/O, the Bosun, the rest of the deck crew and
the ship management company did not recognize the potential
risks associated with the use of hydrocarbon based paint and
organic solvent in an enclosed space. The ship's crew
did not fully follow the safety procedures in the Safety Manual
and the ship management company did not supply proper equipment.
The explosion, the casualties of the deck crew and the serious
damage to the TBT would have been avoided had proper ventilation
and strict control of ignition source been carried out.
The accident was in general caused by the lack of safety awareness
on the potential hazards associated with spraying painting within
an enclosed space by the ship management company and those on
board the "Nego Kim". In short, the explosion occurred
as a result of a failure of the safety system on board to prevent
an unsafe condition (an explosive atmosphere) coming into contact
with a hazard (a source of ignition).
Important lessons should be learnt from this incident :-
- When painting in enclosed spaces proper ventilation of
space is essential. Paint fumes form an explosion mixture
at low concentrations. Being heavier than air they tend
to accumulate at the bottom of a space, particularly if
contained by deep frames or floors. Such fumes must be exhausted
from a space; a good circulation of air established and
atmosphere in the enclosed space must be continuously monitored.
- The paint manufacturers/suppliers instructions must be
followed and data sheets carried on board, read and understood
by all concerned. For spray painting the correct nozzle
size should be used, and unnecessary thinning down of paint
by large amount of solvent should be avoided.
- All electrical equipment used must be of a type approved
for use in a flammable atmosphere.
- Safety system in ship management should ensure that precise
instructions for safe operation within enclosed spaces,
the necessary information and equipment are provided to
their ships, and that such instructions are being followed
by their shipboard staff in carrying out the operation.
Figure 1 : View towards the port shoulder of
Figure 2 : Damage of the port shoulder abeam
to Hatch No.1
(view from hatch cover)