Police deepen investigation into cause of massive Bali port fire, environmental impact also examined

The oil spill response carried out by the Coast Guard and Pertamina. Photo via Info Denpasar

While police in Bali are still trying to figure out what exactly caused a massive fire at the island’s Port of Benoa, the province’s Environment and Sanitation Agency (DLHK) is evaluating the environmental impacts of the destructive blaze.

Around 40 fishing boats were affected by the raging fire that sparked in the early hours of Monday morning at a boat anchored in Benoa.

Denpasar Police are in the process of interviewing 14 witnesses, reportedly the skipper and crew of the boat where the fire originated.

“The examination of witnesses is underway,” Denpasar Police Chief Comr. Hadi Purnomo told Tribun Bali in Denpasar on Tuesday.

“The initial allegation is that the the fire came from a machine on the boat to provide electricity for lights and cooking rice. The machine short circuited and trigged a fire,” Purnomo said.

A forensics police team (Labfor) is still investigating the main cause of the fire to confirm this allegation.

“We are still waiting on the results of Labfor’s investigation, for up to one week,” he said.

However, police have not completely ruled out that the fire could have been a result of arson.

“If there indeed was an element of deliberateness, we will definitely pursue this through legal avenues,” Purnomo said.

Compounding the damage of the fire was that the port was overcrowded–not to mention all that flammable fiberglass and diesel. So many boats were in the harbor because many of them were awaiting permits from the Directorate General of Marine and Fisheries, according to Purnomo.

“I hope this has gotten the government’s attention, because if ships are docked too long, undesirable things can happen like short circuiting,” Purnomo said.

He added that there are currently somewhere between 600 to 700 boats waiting for permission to sail in the Port of Benoa.

It’s suspected that there will be pollution in the form of oil spills, but the DLHK is not sure yet about the extent of the problem.

DLHK Bali analyst Surya Adikrisna says that the agency is testing liter samples of water taken from around the harbor.

“We are sampling water from the port in the vicinity of the incident,” Surya said on Wednesday, as quoted by Kumparan.

“We are not yet able to talk about the pollution (level) yet.

“The lab results can take up to five days,” he added.

DLHK has observed oil in the seawater and a strong smell, but it’s not yet been ruled whether this is the normal condition of the harbor or if this is a result of the fire.

Meanwhile, the head of Denpasar city’s own environmental agency, I Ketut Wisada says he has asked the Benoa Port Authority (KSOP) to do “blocking” so scattered oil does not spread more widely or pollute the surrounding mangrove forest.

“(The oil) is just around the fire location. It could damage the marine ecosystem due to fuel, but hopefully the impact is not significant.

“Hopefully it’s only on the surface and can be localized,” Wisada said.

As for the port authority, KSOP says they are working with Pertamina, Indonesia’s state-owned energy company to assess the level of oil pollution from the fire.

“We are working with Pertamina by spraying dispersant to eliminate small spots of oil. From our survey this morning, there was very little (pollution). Hopefully it can be decomposed before spreading to the mangrove area,” Dwi Yanto told Kumparan, speaking on behalf of KSOP Benoa

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