The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) said Friday that the fire which broke out on board the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC) tanker, MT Bunga Alpinia, in Labuan, is "yet another unfortunate incident that has not only resulted in the loss of lives and damage to properties but also indirect economic losses due to disruption at the Patau-Patau Power Station."
The incident involving the MT Bunga Alpinia is the most recent Petronas-related accident. The oil tanker had caught fire and exploded at the jetty of Petronas Chemicals Methanol Sdn Bhd on July 26, 2012. The facility is part of the Rancha-Rancha industrial zone, which is located on the island of Pulau Enoe, near Labuan.
The 38,000 deadweight-tonne MISC tanker was loading six tonnes of methanol when a small fire broke out during a thunderstorm, The Star Online reported July 29, 2012. The fire quickly turned into a raging inferno sparking off at least three major explosions that could be felt throughout the island, the daily added. Following the incident, operations at the Patau-Patau Power Station – the only power station in Labuan – was halted for safety reasons. The power station is sited next to the terminal.
MISC, a subsidiary of Petronas, confirmed July 30, 2012, through a published statement on its website, that the accident had claimed five lives, with the body of its fifth and last victim found in a holding tank of the scorched ship.
"Whatever the reasons for the incident, the cause of the fire will fall into one of three possibilities: human error, faulty safety systems or a combination of both," the IEM said.
The IEM also responded to local media reports about the possibility of a lightning bolt hitting the tanker and sparking off the fire, since the MT Bunga Alpinia was understood to have been caught in a storm during the time of the accident.
"To solely identify lightning as the cause and at the same time label it as too challenging to manage is technically unjustifiable," the IEM said. "If freak lightning is the cause of the incident as reported, then the question that will arise is whether sufficient mitigating measures have been taken, as there are available technologies to contain the effects and dangers of lightning," the IEM added.
Petronas told Rigzone Monday that "investigations are still underway."
The IEM confirmed on Monday that while it is keen to be a part of the investigations relating to the MT Bunga Alpinia incident, the Malaysian government has not yet approached it for assistance.
"The IEM would be keen to engage with the relevant authorities on safety issues such as this as our members and the engineering fraternity in general will learn from such incidences that will go a long way on helping build a safer Malaysia," the IEM said.
The MT Bunga Alpinia incident follows closely from another fire which blazed June 11 at the Petronas Carigali's Tukau B Platform offshore Miri.
In an earlier statement, Petronas said it was forced to stop production at the platform and five out of 16 persons on board were injured. Out of the five victims, the most severely affected was a technician who was reported to have suffered second-degree burns.
Earlier this year, a Petronas gas process plant in the GPP Complex A in Kerteh was rocked by two explosions. A worker died on the spot, while 23 others were injured. Some 2,000 workers were at the site when the explosions occurred.
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