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The M/V HYUNDAI FORTUNE is the latest container ship to suffer a major explosion and fire at sea. Initial reports of this incident that occurred on March 21, 2006 in the Gulf of Aden from M/V Hyundai Merchant Marine allege the initial cause was fireworks. There were reportedly 7 containers of fireworks stowed aft of the accommodation, but the IMDG code prescribes these should be stowed above decks; however this picture of a large hole on the port side and above the water line indicates something exploded below decks.


The M/V HYUNDAI FORTUNE on the port side aft of the accommodation after the initial explosion. Note the large hole with the metal plate bent outwards above the waterline.


My review of the information that I've been able to obtain indicated it was highly unlikely the initial explosion involved the fireworks aboard the M/V Hyundai Fortune. Modern fireworks formulas are generally quite stable and only a series of packing, handling or other mistakes could possibly lead to their sudden and unitendended ignition onboard a ship.

The M/V HYUNDAI FORTUNE on the starboard side aft of the accommodation after the initial explosion. The stacks of burning containers on the stern of Hold 8 and near the accommodation of Hold 7 remain on board and upright.  Note the  burning container on the smoke stack.


The most likely scenario given the hole in the port side above the water line near the engine compartment is a fire and explosion below decks, which then ignited the cargo - including the fireworks - above decks.


Some of the many containers and cargo blown overboard from the M/V HYUNDAI FORTUNE.


The idea the fireworks might have functioned because of tropical heat is also unlikely. All Class 1 goods must pass a thermal stability test as part of the classification process. UN Series 4 (a) requires no functioning or significant degradation of the product when placed in an oven at 75 C for 48 hours.


The aft of the M/V HYUNDAI FORTUNE ablaze. The orange flames and black smoke indicates carbon based fuels burning, while the lighter gray color is steam.

I also questioned stowing DG above the engine compartment and in proximity to the accommodation. The aft portion of a ship with all of the machinery and human activity is the most likely place for fires to start, and thus the last place DG should be stowed.


The fire from the port side. Note the burning container on the stacks of Hold 6 in front of the accommodation.


Hyundai Marine placed a worldwide moratorium on all fireworks shipments. Containers of fireworks were piling up in China at the peak of the shipping season for the summer festivals in Europe and North America. Other carriers' schedules and capacity limited available options - especially for 1.3G fireworks - and this had a negative impact not only on the fireworks trade, but the many events that rely on fireworks to attract patrons.



Built:  September 1996 by Hyundai Heavy Industries

DWT: 68,363

GT: 64,054

Speed:  25.6

Capacity:  5,551 TEU

Registration:  PANAMA

Call Sign:  3FLG6



Hyundai Merchant Marine

SvitzerWijsmuller Salvage

Lloyd's Salvage Case



Other recent cargo explosions on container ships at sea include:

All photos of M/V HYUNDAI FORTUNE:  Royal Netherlands Navy

 April 2006, Weeth & Associates, LLC , La Crosse, WI USA. All rights reserved worldwide.

Revised April 16, 2006