Thursday, July 22, 2021

Final Report on Explosion and Fire Which Rocked Korean Port Published

Live Video Shows Seriousness of Incident
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH KOREA – UK – The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has completed its final report on the huge explosion aboard the chemical tanker Stolt Groenland which occurred in the Port of Busan on 28 September 2019.

The sheer scale of the incident is best understood by watching the video recovered from a static camera in the port at the time. The MAIB was directly involved as the vessel was flagged in the Cayman Islands and therefore part of the MoU which links to Red Ensign Group category 1 registries (Bermuda, Cayman Isles, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man).

It was found that cargo tank containing styrene monomer ruptured due to runaway polymerisation. This occurred as the temperature of the cargo was not monitored and the tank in question was affected by the heat from other cargo tanks, something not appreciated at the time.

After the tank ruptured large amounts of flammable gas leaked out and were subsequently ignited causing a massive fire requiring attention from over 700 personnel and 117 units of fire trucks, pumps and fire tugs.

The incident caused extensive damage to the Stolt Groenland and also impacted a vessel alongside, the Singapore flagged, chemical tanker Bow Dalian but miraculously nobody was seriously hurt on either ship despite the scale of the explosion and fire.

The MAIB has circulated recommendations regarding future carriage, storage and monitoring to interested parties including the Cayman Island Shipping Registry, the Chemical Distribution Institute and Plastics Europe (Styrene Producers Association), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and INTERTANKO plus the vessel’s owners Stolt Tankers B.V.

These recommendations are aimed at ensuring the wider marine chemical sector benefits from the lessons learned from this and also an incident aboard another of the fleet. The Stolt Focus which had suffered a similar leak just a few days earlier, but which had gone unreported. The two ships had loaded virtually identical cargoes at the same time from the same source tank in Texas.

Stolt Tankers did not wait for the results of the investigation before changing protocols and installing suitable safety measures once the dangers were realised. The Port of Busan and the Korean authorities also issued new regulations to prevent further similar occurrences. Styrene monomer is an irritant to eyes and mucous membranes and is very widely used in the production of plastics.