x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Customs deny blame over dhow fire at creek

It says it liaised with the municipality before authorising a dhow gutted by fire to moor on the creek.

DUBAI // Dubai Customs yesterday insisted it had liaised with the municipality before authorising a dhow gutted by fire to moor on the creek.

Officials at the municipality had blamed customs officers for granting the boat's owners permission to stay there.

The Bhakti Sagar caught fire on Sunday afternoon, with the blaze also destroying Dh200,000 worth of cargo on the dock.

It was the second time the dhow had been seriously damaged by a fire in the last three months. On Sunday, the boat was moored on the Deira side of the creek to carry out repairs from the first fire, in February.

"It was coordinated with Dubai Municipality to give permission to the burnt vessel to anchor in the same [harbour] to remove the residues from the damaged vessel [and] to keep the passages clear for ships," said Butti Al-Zafri, manager of customer service for Hamriyah, Creek and Marine Operations at Dubai Customs.

Municipality officials said they had asked the owners of the Bhakti Sagar to shift the dhow to Al Jedaf or Rashid Port to complete the maintenance required after the first fire.

The municipality plans to fine the owners of the Bhakti Sagar but has not yet decided on the amount.

Dubai Customs said the dhow, which was not carrying any goods, was at the pier waiting for another vessel to tug it back to India. It was supposed to leave tomorrow.

There were 17 men on board at the time of the fire. Four were working to fix the engine, while the rest were readying the ship to be towed.

The men escaped unharmed by jumping on to neighbouring skips or into the water.

Yesterday, municipality workers were removing the remains of the charred cargo from the nearby dock. The clean-up is due to finish today.

"It is our work to remove the cargo that caught fire," said Adel Abdulla Al Karrani, head of the municipality's waste management department waterways unit. "We started at 5 am on Monday. We had to wait 24 hours for the cargo to cool down. Nearly 90 per cent of the cargo was burnt. There is a lot of steel."

His department has removed more than 110 tonnes of burnt debris - mostly air conditioners, kitchen equipment such as refrigerators, generators and electrical parts - that were to be exported to Chabar, Iran.

The waterways team used five trucks to move the debris to the municipality's dumping site.

Dubai Police and Dubai Civil Defence were yesterday still investigating the cause of the fire.