Sun, May 28, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Singapore shipyard fined US$19,000 after seven deaths


A Singapore court has fined a state-linked company less than US$20,000 for safety lapses that led to the deaths of seven foreign workers in a shipyard fire, the company said.

Keppel Corp Ltd, the world's largest maker of offshore oil rigs, said in a statement that its Keppel Shipyard unit was fined S$30,000 (US$19,000) on Friday for an oversight that led to a fire on May 29, 2004.

The company could have been fined up to S$35,000. Keppel Corp is 32-percent owned by the Singapore government's investment arm Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd.

Keppel Shipyard pleaded guilty to violating safety regulations that could have prevented the fire from starting onboard a vessel, the statement said.

The Portuguese-registered Almudaina was under repair in the Singapore shipyard when sparks ignited oily sludge in the cargo hold, setting the ship on fire and killing five Malaysians and two Indian workers who were welding inside one of the vessel's compartments, the court heard.

The court also fined Lim Yee-chien, the shipyard's then safety inspector, S$150,000 for failing to detect the oil patch that caused the fire, the Straits Times newspaper reported yesterday.

Lim faced a maximum penalty of a S$200,000 fine and a year in jail.

The families of the workers killed in the accident were compensated with S$30,000 each, the paper quoted an unnamed company spokesman as saying.

According to Channel NewsAsia, District Judge Liew Thiam-leng said the case was a tragic one and the sentence reflected the gravity of the situation. He added it was the duty of Keppel, the occupier of the work site, to ensure the safety of its workers.

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