Dubai Court Fines Boxship Crew for Explosion of a Hazardous Container

The aftermath of the explosion, July 8, 2021 (Government of Dubai Media Office)

Published Aug 21, 2022 9:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a new example of criminalization of mariner liability, a court in Dubai has issued a suspended jail sentence and a $28,000 fine to five crewmembers of the container feeder Ocean Trader, which suffered a cargo container explosion at Jebel Ali last year.

On June 27, 2021, three containers of organic peroxides arrived in Jebel Ali from China and were stored in a terminal yard. Organic peroxides are a known hazardous cargo with a risk of thermal runaway, and summertime temperatures in Dubai are high. More than a week later, on the night of July 7, the containers were loaded aboard the Trader. One of the containers began fuming and exploded aboard the vessel shortly after it had been hoisted on deck. The blast was heard throughout the emirate and five sustained minor injuries, according to prosecutors.

Though the cargo had only just been loaded, and the initiating events occurred on the pier, local prosecutors brought charges against the vessel's captain and four crewmembers over the blast. Prosecutors contended that the master's responsibility for stowing the containers made him liable, even though he played no role in the cargo's open pierside storage. The Dubai Misdemeanour Court found that the container involved in the blast had been left in the sun on shore for 12 days, resulting in the decomposition and heating of the cargo inside, and found all five crewmembers guilty.

The master denied that he would have accepted the cargo if he had known how it had been stored, and noted that he safely evacuated the ship and informed authorities when the hazardous containers began emitting fumes, according to the National.

Five companies connected to the ship and the shipment were also fined $28,000 each.