Chinese Bulker Catches Fire and Drifts Aground in Indonesia

Da Hao aground
Da Hao aground, her bulbous bow fully visible above the surface (Courtesy TNI AL. Koarmada II)

Published May 7, 2024 8:31 PM by The Maritime Executive


A Chinese-owned bulker has drifted aground off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia after losing power in a fire. Local police and authorities have responded to the scene and have taken measures to deter looters. 

On April 28, the Tanzanian-flagged coastal bulker Da Hao was under way in the Banda Sea, bound for Manokwari on a voyage from Timor Leste. A fire broke out on board, disabling the main engine. The crew were rescued by a good samaritan vessel and no injuries were reported, but the ship was left adrift without propulsion. The current carried it until it went aground just off the coast of remote Binongko Island, about 150 nm southeast of Sulawesi. 

Indonesian Navy personnel surveyed the vessel's condition over the weekend, along with members of the local police force. Damage to the superstructure was extensive: the fire burned through the engine room, the accommodations and the wheelhouse, the authorities told local Tribun News Sultra. No smoke or signs of remaining fire risk were found, and there were no spills around the vessel. However, one of the vessel's hatches was found to contain a mixture of fuel and seawater, and the vessel was trimmed heavily by the stern. 

While plans for the ship's future disposition are being made, the authorities have lowered the ship's anchors as a precautionary measure. A police line has been set up on deck to deter would-be looters. 

A bystander video from the scene of the casualty shows Da Hao hard aground amidships, with her bulbous bow riding fully clear of the water. 

Da Hao was built in 2019, but in her five years in service, she has racked up a long list of inspection deficiencies. In 2022, port state control inspectors in Changshu, China found 15 issues, including problems with SOLAS gear like lifeboats, liferafts and communications equipment. In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea - where the Da Hao called regularly - local inspectors recorded dozens of deficiencies over the course of multiple visits, including fire safety-related issues.