Jurong Shipyard fined $400k for rig accident

A vessel at Sembcorp Marine's Jurong Shipyard in January last year. Yesterday, the shipyard was fined over an incident in 2012 that put the lives of 1,000 workers at risk when an oil rig tilted.
A vessel at Sembcorp Marine's Jurong Shipyard in January last year. Yesterday, the shipyard was fined over an incident in 2012 that put the lives of 1,000 workers at risk when an oil rig tilted. PHOTO: REUTERS

Jurong Shipyard, a unit of Sembcorp Marine, was yesterday fined $400,000 over a 2012 incident in which an oil rig tilted, injuring 89 people.

The lives of 1,000 people on board the rig were put at risk in the incident, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.

This is the second time such a heavy fine has been imposed for a breach of the Workplace Safety and Health Act. Earlier this year, SMRT Trains was fined $400,000 for lapses that resulted in the deaths of two trainees last year.

In the Dec 3, 2012 incident at Jurong Shipyard, said to be one of the worst industrial accidents in recent times, the rig, the Noble Regina Allen, suddenly tilted during testing of its jack-up system.

About 1,000 workers from various sub-contractors engaged by Jurong Shipyard had to evacuate through only one escape gangway, resulting in some workers jumping into the sea to escape.

In a separate incident a few weeks later, a worker helping to right the leaning rig slipped and fell.

Mr Teo Kok Kee, 50, was taken to hospital but died of a heart attack.

He was an employee of Belfor Asia, a disaster recovery and property restoration company that had been hired by Jurong Shipyard to perform recovery work on the rig.

MOM said its investigations revealed that the sudden tilt of the rig was due to the forward leg motor not being able to hold the weight of the hull when the brakes were released. In addition, the jacking control system was not designed to be fail-safe.

Jurong Shipyard also failed to take adequate safety measures for the testing of the jack-up system of the oil rig, by not undertaking adequate risk assessment, not implementing control measures in safe work procedures and not providing adequate means of escape.

Said Mr Chan Yew Kwong, MOM's director of occupational safety and health inspectorate: "The heavy fine reflected the very serious safety breaches by Jurong Shipyard that had put at risk the lives of so many workers."

He noted that as the principal contractor, Jurong Shipyard had the duty to plan, manage and monitor the construction of projects to ensure work was performed in a safe manner. This included emergency arrangements and procedures.

Seeking a deterrent fine of $400,000, MOM prosecutor Mohd Rizal said that the company's culpability and potential harm were high.

Jurong Shipyard, he said, had failed to provide adequate risk assessment, implement control measures in safe work procedures and provide adequate means of escape during an emergency.

The company's lawyer, Mr Thomas Tan, in asking for a $100,000 fine, argued that his client's culpability was "medium''.

The company regrets the unfortunate accident, he said. After the incident, Jurong Shipyard undertook a comprehensive safety review and steps to mitigate the effect of the accident and to prevent further similar incidents, he added.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda allowed the company, which has had 14 previous convictions since 2002, to pay the fine in a week's time.

The maximum punishment is a $500,000 fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Jurong Shipyard fined $400k for rig accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe