x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Blast investigation continues

An investigation into the cause of an oil tanker explosion at Fujairah port is continuing as two men remain missing.

DUBAI // The owner and manager of the oil tanker MT Prem Divya pledged a thorough investigation of a series of explosions on board that killed three men and left one injured and two missing at Fujairah's port.

The vessel was rocked by three blasts on Thursday that erupted at the aft of the ship, damaging its engine room, living quarters and bridge.

The spark for the fire was caused by welding work, but why that created several explosions is still under investigation.

A spokesman for the shipowner and the ship manager said a potential cause for the explosions was residual flammable gas, which is often present on oil tankers but which should have been cleared out before ignitable work such as welding began.

"One of the possibilities is gas somewhere," the spokesman said on behalf of the Indian shipowner, Mercator Limited, and the Hong Kong-based ship manager, Anglo-Eastern Group.

The Mercator chairman, HK Mittal, and the Anglo-Eastern Group chief executive, Peter Cremers, issued a statement in which they promised a full inquiry to "prevent a repeat of such a tragedy".

"Search efforts are continuing, as we have not given up hope that they were rescued by a passing vessel and taken ashore," Mr Cremers said of the ship's chief officer and one worker who were still missing.

The ship had been empty of oil, which may have created more space for flammable gas to expand. However, the vessel had been certified as "degassed" before work began, according to Captain Mousa Morad, the general manager of the Fujairah port.

Some 80 maintenance workers and 24 Indian crewmen were on board when the accident occurred.

One injured worker remained in unstable condition with burns and fractures in his eye socket. The deceased include two workers and one crewman.

chuang@thenational.ae