‘Chaotic parking system’ compounding factor in devastating Bali harbor fire, police deepen investigation into cause

Indonesian workers and firefighters try to extinguish a fire on fishing boats at Benoa Harbor in Denpasar, Bali on July 9, 2018. A massive fire laid waste to dozens of boats at the port as firefighters battled to bring the dramatic blaze under control. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

The raging fire at Bali’s Benoa Harbor burning tens of ships was declared “extinguished” yesterday afternoon, but the flames unfortunately came rip-roaring back that same evening.

The effort to fully put the fire to rest is such a struggle because the burning vessels are made of fiberglass and the presence of diesel in the burning ships isn’t exactly making things easier, says Bali Police Chief Insp. Gen. Petrus Golose.

“Every ship is filled with diesel fuel, so it’s very difficult to extinguish (the fire),” Golose said on Monday, as quoted by Detik.

As of Tuesday morning, a total of 40 fishing boats in the South Denpasar harbor have caught fire and the flames persist.

Compounding the fact that the boats are highly flammable is the chaotic parking system at the port, according to Bali Police.

There is not a good safety system in place at the harbor for parking, they told reporters yesterday.

Many boats parked at the harbor are not “active” and are simply anchored in Benoa, head of Benoa Port Operations Head Dwi Yanto. There are so many because of heavy fishing regulations, he explained.

“So these boats fall under a moratorium under fisheries regulations,” Yanto said Monday afternoon, as quoted by Tribun Bali.

Ideally, according to SOP, the boats should not be parked three in one line, but for some of them, crew have not yet returned home from the Lebaran holiday yet so the boats have not been operating as usual.

Of the 40 vessels reportedly burned, only around 10-15 of them were active, Yanto said.

He also said that the port is actually overrun and does not have the capacity to accommodate the current number of ships docked there.

And of the burned boats, all are just from three companies, with PT Banjar Nelayan suffering the biggest losses, he added.

Traffic is being directed to the western corner of the harbor so as not to disrupt the flow of the rest of the port.

Water Police say they will conduct training with representatives from the fishing companies at the port to teach them how to better deal with fires in the future.

While police are still investigating the cause of the massive fire, which first broke out on Monday morning around 2am, they suspect the fire emerged as a result of a short circuit on one of the fishing boats.

Losses from this fire are estimated to amount to hundreds of billions of rupiah.

This is not Benoa’s first fire in recent time. There was one in January 2017, though it was not nearly as destructive.

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