Learn from experience

Kompas Newspaper – March 8, 2023

Firefighter: When will they learn from experience

Signboard reads "Danger Zone"

In what seems to have become an all too familiar occurrence, on February 3 yet another fire broke out at a facility owned by the state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina.

This time round it was at the company's Plumpang depot in North Jakarta, with the ensuring explosion and fire killing 20 people and injuring scores of others living in a residential area next to the depot. Residence said they smelt gasoline and heard thunder prior to the explosion.

The incident has raised questions about why a residential area was developed so close to the depot, who is to blame for the disaster, and whether the depot or nearby residents should be relocated to prevent similar incidents.

In the aftermath of the fire, the usual blame game has erupted with former governors Anies Baswedan and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo being blamed for not relocating residents near the depot.

This however would have been a highly unpopular move that could have hurt Widodo's electability in the 2014 presidential elections and Baswedan's presidential ambitions in 2024.

And while Pertamina's directors and commissioners were blamed for failing to ensure proper safety at the depot, in the end Pertamina business support director Dedi Sunardi – whose position had no relationship with technical or safety issues – took the brunt of the blame and was removed from his position.

Sources at Pertamina say the fire was caused by a pipe leak which was due to poor maintenance and low safety standards at the depot, and that any leaks or damage should have been picked up by the control room.

They also said that a lack of maintenance was an issue at other Pertamina depots and refineries. The results of recent audits of several facilities showed scale on several pipes, which could lead to leaks or high pressure. And while a number of depots and refineries had lightning rods, the equipment sometimes malfunctioned.

The source alleged that Pertamina did not make immediate improvements in response to the audit's findings.

[Based on an article in the Jakarta Post titled "Pertamina's latest fire incident ignites blame game": https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/03/15/analysis-pertaminas-latest-fire-incident-ignites-blame-game.html]