By Tan, Lay Yuen written on 1999-04-17
National Library Board Singapore
On 12 October 1978, at 2:15 pm,
an explosion occurred on the Greek tanker, S. T. Spyros,
whilst the vessel was undergoing repairs at Jurong Shipyard,
causing a fire and leading to 76 dead and 69 injured.
The S. T. Spyros was owned by Ulysses Tanker Corporation of Liberia
and operated by International Operations, S A.
The Liberian-registered vessel was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan in 1964
and it is a steam turbine-driven tanker of 64,081 tons deadweight.
On 6 October 1978, S. T. Spyros arrived in Singapore
for a full special survey and general repairs at Jurong Shipyard.
One of the items for repair was
the replacement of the missing cover for the drip tray of the vent
pipe leading from the aft starboard fuel oil tank.
Sparks from the cutting torch used during repairs,
caused a fire which ignited an explosive vapour mixture
within the aft starboard bunker tank of the vessel.
The fuel tank had been contaminated by crude oil.
The explosion ruptured the common bulkhead between the tank and the engine room,
releasing the burning oil into the engine room
and setting it on fire, killing the workers there instantly.
Of those working on board the vessel,
76 people were killed and 69 others injured.
Of the victims who died from burns,
some bodies were charred while most died from flash burns,
the intense heat of approximately 3,000
degrees centigrade sloughing off their underlying skin.
Others died from suffocation after inhaling hot toxic
fumes or from carbon monoxide poisoning.
At least two people drowned in oil.
A full list of the deceased, dates
and causes of death is appended to the Inquiry Report.
A Committee of Inquiry chaired by Senior District Judge, Michael Khoo Kah Lip
was set up to explore the cause of the fire.
Organised labour, led by NTUC Secretary-General, C. V. Devan Nair,
expressed outrage at the tragedy
because it was the third major mishap at Jurong Shipyard since 1972.
The Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Labour), Fong Sip Chee,
felt equally disgusted.
Both the trade unions and the government lobbied and campaigned
vigorously for greater safety consciousness in the shipbuilding and repairing industry.
Committee of Inquiry into the Explosion and Fire on Board S.T. Spyros. (1979).
The explosion and fire on board S.T. Spyros, 12th October 1978:
The inquiry report. Singapore : Ministry of Labour.
(Call no.: RSING 623.83 SIN)