Poor planning played a key role in Napier ship fire

07 December 2022

Kerry Tong the sole director of K.R Tong Engineering Limited (in liquidation), was sentenced this week in the Napier District Court for failing to comply with his duties, exposing individuals to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The charges relate to a fire on board a vessel at the Port of Napier.

The fire broke out in the hold of the Kota Bahagia during the unloading of wind turbine components on the morning of 18 December, 2020.

Mr Tong managed the business. When the fire broke out, employees of K.R. Tong were carrying out gas cutting on board the vessel. The fire was caused by hot metal particles, expelled by the gas cutting, falling into the lower hold and igniting the material below the decks where the workers were gas cutting.

Manager, Regulatory Operations, John Maxwell says Mr Tong failed to ensure the company had available for use, and used, appropriate resources and processes to minimise the risk of fire.

"As Director of the company, he needed to ensure his people worked in a way to keep themselves and those in the vicinity of the work were kept safe.

"He needed to ensure his company acquired and kept up to date with the standard and guidance required relating to safety procedures with hot works.

"He didn’t do so," John Maxwell says.

When starting the gas cutting Mr Tong’s should have ensured there were resources and processes in place to:

  • Complete a thorough safety checks around the site of the hot works
  • Ensure a full site examination was undertaken and a risk assessment was undertaken
  • Ensure a firewatcher was in place on-board around the appropriate areas of the vessel
  • Made sure fire blankets were available and were used effectively

"Undertaking these steps would have reduced the potential of the fire starting and spreading on the vessel.

"Due to the fire occurring in a confined space on the vessel, it posed a significant risk to the safety of the employees of Mr Tong, the stevedores, the crew, and all others in the vicinity of the vessel." John Maxwell says.

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