Two weeks have passed, and the cargo ship MV Ever Judger has not left the waters of Balikpapan Bay in East Kalimantan. This ship, which sails under the flag of Panama, should have set sail on March 30, leaving Balikpapan with a cargo of 74,000 tons of coal, headed for Lumut, Perak, Malaysia. The captain had been authorized to leave by the port authority.
The ship’s departure was suddenly halted on that Friday afternoon. Suwardi, Operational Manager PT Penascop Maritim Indonesia, Balikpapan, the agency which handled the administration of the arrival and departure for the MV Ever Judger, said that the cargo ship would not set sail due to engine trouble. The port pilot from the port authority, who had been on board the MV Ever Judger for over two hours, left the ship.
After the pilot left, Captain Zhang Deyi sent a message that the engine problem had been fixed and the ship was ready to leave. However, the pilot and the tugboat were unable to make this happen because they were already scheduled to direct another ship. It was reported that the water level in the bay had decreased, and the cargo ship would have difficulty passing the bend in the bay. “It was finally rescheduled,” said Suwardi to Tempo, on Thursday last week.
Early Saturday morning, the Pertamina pipeline running under Balikpapan Bay broke. As a result, the equivalent of 40,000 barrels of crude oil rose to the surface. At around 10 am, the floating oil caught fire. A joint fire-fighting team from the port authority, National SAR Agency of East Kalimantan, Pertamina, and some private oil companies were able to put out the fire two-and-a-half hours later.
The fire burned the hull, lifeboats, and ropes of the MV Ever Judger. Traces of black soot could be seen on the white walls of the ship’s bridge. The MV Ever Judger was then put under police supervision. On Thursday last week, officers could be seen measuring the size of the large anchor on the ship’s bow.
With a length of 224 meters, the MV Ever Judger stands out compared to other ships in the bay. However, not much activity could be seen on board. Only seven crew members were seen cleaning the decks.
Tempo boarded a speedboat and tried to approach this black vessel constructed in 2014. There was no direct access to board the ship. The steel stairs going up to the top of the ship were locked. Two Chinese crew members who were leaning against a side rail running along the deck only waved and smiled, responding to the wave of the passengers on the passing speedboat.
The fire resulted in the deaths of five fishermen who were fishing about 200 meters away from that large ship. “The fire spread quickly. We are still researching how the pipe broke and the fire started there,” said Senior Commissioner Yustan Alpiani, Director of the Criminal Investigation Unit of the East Kalimantan Police Department, on Wednesday last week.