Major fire on KMTC container ship in Thailand – worst scenario live UPDATE

May 28 UPDATE: Thailand Port Authority TPA director Kamolsak Phromprayoon said on May 27, that the overall damage from KMTC HONGKONG explosions and major fire, would exceed $3.1 mil. Thailand authorities and all affected by accident, seem to go after cargo owners in order to get compensation. The ship arrived at Laem Chabang after calling Busan Korea, and Chinese ports, chemicals which exploded and went on fire are as of now, believed to be either not declared, or declared as non-hazardous. As of now, TPA is collecting data from all affected people and businesses, to estimate the extent of damages. Thailand will probably, set up a special working group with relevant agencies to investigate the full extent of the impact from the chemical contamination on people’s health and the environment, being already pressed to do so by environmentalists.
According to Pollution Control Department’s report, hazardous pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds, formaldehyde and chlorine gas have been released by explosion and ensuing fire, and all of them can cause long-term health impacts.

1500 UTC May 26 Update: Throughout night and day May 26 fire though under control, was still smoldering in some containers. Reportedly, 35 loaded containers were destroyed or damaged. Authorities prohibited to release overboard water used in firefighting, because it is contaminated. Calcium hypochlorite is believed, as of now, to be the cause of the fire, but there’s no explosion/fire chronicle, to analyze the development of fire. Up to 200 people, including local residents, said to be medically treated. Explosion debris fallout hit one of the main Thailand highways, Sukhumvit Road, which is crossing Sri Racha and Laem Chabang towns. Investigation already under way, with Korean ship owner being, it is rumored, of a major interest for investigators, though fire and explosion of cargo in containers can hardly be his fault.

0600 UTC May 26 UPDATE: Fire understood to be under control or extinguished, as of morning May 26. Firefighters reported to cool and monitor fire site, with most of the efforts and attention turned to chemical contamination, at sea, on land and in the air. The ship is fenced by booms, emergency staff are trying to collect fluid slime from destroyed or damaged containers. 143 people were injured by poisonous stuff released by explosion, 37 are said to be still at hospital, undergoing treatment. There were 676 containers on board on arrival, 443 were offloaded with 35 more to go.
Among containers destroyed or damaged by explosion and fire, 5 tank containers were loaded with liquid paraffin, 13 containers were loaded with Calcium Hypochlorite. What was that liquid stuff which burned skin and caused chest pain, is yet unclear.

1220 UTC Update: Fire is still raging, Thailand PM Prayut Chan-ocha is closely monitoring situation. In general, it’s a worst possible case of fire on container ship berthed in port, with only one plus – KMTC HONGKONG is not a mega container ship, it’s a comparatively small regional shuttle. Chemicals and hazards are on fire, emitting poisonous substances, and nobody knows for sure, what’s in containers in or near fire. Fire fighting is extremely hard in such cases, because of obvious reasons – risks of new explosion or poisonous emission, and the necessity of providing safety for those engaged in fire fighting.
If no positive changes during night time, authorities may have to order the ship to be towed out, if it will be possible, of course.

0730 UTC UPDATE: All witnesses mention explosion prior to fire. No smoke seen over Laem Chabang as of 1430 LT (UTC +7), but according to available sources info, fire is still on. Chemicals emission confirmed, those exposed complain skin itching, general unwell.

Fire erupted in containers on board of container ship KMTC HONGKONG berthed at Laem Chabang, Thailand, at around 0600 LT (UTC +7) May 24. Some or all containers on fire are containers with hazardous chemicals, at least 20 people were taken to nearby hospitals for chemical poisoning and burns treatment. People are advised not to breath without masks in the area. Chemical substance is in form of droplets, with burning sensation when hitting skin.
1115 LT (UTC +7) – fire seems to be extinguished or under control, I see no smoke in Laem Chabang area, which is clearly visible from my home.
No details on released chemical’s character, the cause of the fire, and number of containers, destroyed or damaged by fire.
Photo: Sawang Prateep, Sriracha Rescue Unit; Verayut.

Container ship KMTC HONGKONG, IMO 9157753, dwt 20999, capacity 1585 TEU, built 1998, flag Korea, manager KOREA MARINE TRANSPORT CO.



My name is Mikhail Voytenko, I’m Russian, professional merchant marine navigator, by education and former experience. I own and run Maritime Bulletin website for more than 10 years. I've been involved in solving a number of piracy hijack cases, including the hijack of ro-ro FAINA, loaded with tanks. It was me who made public, and unravel, freighter ARCTIC SEA mystery. I've been also closely involved in a number of maritime disaster, one of them being MSC FLAMINIA major fire.