FINAL welding was being done last Thursday on board the liquefied petroleum gas carrier Friendshipgas before the vessel burst into flames in Greece, killing eight men, the vessel’s managing company has reported. Athens based Magnus Carriers said that the 1981 built LPG ship had moved to the Perama repair zone on July 18 after earlier drydocking for special survey and maintenance work in adjacent Drapetsona. The mainly steelwork repairs were expected to be finished by last Sunday, July 27, but tragedy intervened. “Final welding work was being carried out and the access spaces on the tank tops were being closed, when a fire broke out in void space No. 3, with several workers still inside,” said Magnus in a statement. According to the company, thick smoke was soon apparent and the crew tried to fight the fire by flooding the hold, while the fire brigade was summoned, but the eight victims “were unable to escape and were caught in the fire.” Four other men were hospitalised with burns and breathing problems, it was reported last week. Magnus expressed its “deepest sorrow and sympathy” to the families affected by the tragic accident. “All the necessary documents and permits were in place” for the repair work, the company stated. It confirmed that the gas carrier’s Filipino chief officer was among the dead. It is believed that the other deceased belonged to the repair crews rather than the vessel’s crew of seafarers. The public prosecutor has filed preliminary charges against the ship’s master and the technical officer from the contracted repair company, who have been taken into custody and are due to give testimony this week. A third man was released at the weekend. “The cause of the incident is under investigation and the managers of the vessel and the P&I Club are cooperating fully with all the relevant authorities,” said Magnus. According to labour sources, during the last 10 years 36 people have now died in accidents in the Perama ship repair zone, which has been at the centre of renewed criticism since last Thursday’s fatal blaze. Managers of the vessel were unable to immediately say what the scale of damage is aboard the Friendshipgas, which burned for several hours before the fames were extinguished. “It is very early to say. Everything is still being investigated and there are other priorities,” said a source close to the company. Perama is a favourite place among many Greek shipowners for conducting repairs as it is virtually in their own back yard. But critics are again calling for greater controls over safety in the zone.