Marine safety investigations & reports

Ballast tank explosion and fatalities on board Nego Kim

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At about 0200 on Saturday 17 November 2001, the Hong Kong registered bulk carrier Nego Kim arrived at the port of Dampier and anchored to await berthing instructions. The ship, which was on a time charter to load a cargo of scrap iron at Fremantle, Adelaide and Dampier, for discharge in Singapore, remained at anchor through Saturday and Sunday. At anchor, the crew continued tasks from the ship's planned maintenance schedule, including the preparation of the interior of no.1 port topside ballast tank for painting.

On Sunday morning the crew performed some routine cleaning tasks. At about 1300, the mate monitored no.1 port topside ballast tank for oxygen content in accordance with safe entry procedures. At about 1430, the eight-man deck crew started work painting the steelwork inside the tank. One man was engaged in painting with an airless spray gun while the other deck crew maintained the paint reservoir, tended a cargo light lowered through the after manhole and assisted the painter as required. An open-ended compressed air hose was led from the forecastle, along the deck and down through this after manhole, while an electrically driven fan was positioned at an angle over the after manhole, which also provided access for the paint hose, light cable and a lanyard.

The mate supervised the initial stages of the task. The paint used was a two-part epoxy mix, thinned as needed using the thinner product supplied by the paint manufacturer. According to the mate, the volume of thinner used was between 30 and 50 per cent of the total mixture.

At about 1530 the mate went to the bridge to start his 1600 to 2000 anchor watch, leaving the bosun and deck fitter in charge at the site.

At about 1640 a large explosion ripped through the tank. The tank ruptured and three men were blown down the length of the main deck, killing them all instantly. The explosion also blew four other men over the ship''s side. One man, who had been inside the tank, was still alive although severely burned. He was assisted out of the tank, through the ruptured maindeck plating, and later airlifted ashore. Eighteen days later he died in hospital as a result of his burns and other injuries.

A search and rescue operation was initiated, using various surface vessels and aircraft as they became available, in the hope of finding the four men who had been blown overboard. The body of one of the men was recovered from the water at about 1325 the next day, 19 November. The search was continued until last light on 21 November, but none of the other three crew were found.

The report recommends safety actions to improve the ISM documentation carried on ships to include clear instructions for all operations in enclosed spaces and guidance on the conditions under which work in enclosed spaces should be undertaken. Recommended safety actions are also directed to the Dampier Port Authority with regard to an emergency response plan.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 552KB]
General details
Date: 18 November 2001   Investigation status: Completed  
Location: Dampier    
State: Western Australia    
Release date: 22 October 2002   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Nego Kim  
Flag Hg K  
IMO 8507535  
Type of operation Bulk carrier  
Damage to vessel Substantial  
Departure point Dampier  
Destination Singapore  
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Fatal: 8 0 0 8
Total: 8 0 0 8
Last update 19 May 2016