Hong Kong: Search for Two Sailors Still Active after Tanker Explosion

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…As Competition Commission Opens Investigation into Hong Kong Seaport Alliance***

Hong Kong authorities are still looking for two crew members that went missing following an explosion and fire aboard the tanker Aulac Fortune on January 8.

The country’s Fire Department dispatched teams to set up a rope system in order to assist divers as they search for the missing seafarers in ship cabins.

As of Tuesday evening, the tanker was listing 30 degrees. South China Morning Post cited a spokesperson for the Fire Services Department as saying that, despite the list, there was no risk of the vessel sinking.

Aulac Fortune suffered the explosion while it was around one nautical mile south of Hong Kong’s Lamma Island. Over 20 seafarers were rescued, one crew member was confirmed deceased, while the search is ongoing for the remaining unaccounted for sailors.

Media reports suggested that the tanker would need to cool down for a few days before the authorities attempt to attach a tow line to the ship and move it to safety. Relevant authorities would then devise a plan to stabilize the vessel in order to send investigator on board to look into the cause of the fire.

The tanker unloaded a cargo of unleaded petrol in Guangdong on Sunday before arriving in Hong Kong waters on Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong Competition Commission has opened an investigation to assess whether the recently created alliance between several container terminal operators may restrict competition in Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, COSCO-HIT Terminals (Hong Kong) Limited (CHT), Asia Container Terminals (ACT), Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) and Modern Terminals Limited (MTL) agreed to create the Hong Kong Seaport Alliance.

The companies plan to jointly operate and manage their 23 berths across 8 terminals at Kwai Tsing, New Territories, Hong Kong, in order to better use terminals and enhance their competitiveness.

In response to the alliance agreement, the Hong Kong Competition Commission has launched an investigation into the matter.

“In particular, the commission is investigating whether the agreement may constitute a contravention of the First Conduct Rule of the Competition Ordinance by preventing, restricting or distorting competition in Hong Kong,” the commission said.

“The commission is carrying out this investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.” 

World Maritime News