Boat catches fire, whale shark grabbed in Thailand

Sea World One on fire near Thap Lamu pier (Kamara One)

Boat catches fire, whale shark grabbed in Thailand

Sea World I, the latest diving liveaboard, caught fire while fortunately in harbour with only a crew member onboard in southern Thailand.

As it neared Thap Lamu pier, the primary launch point for the Similan Islands and near Khao Lak in Phang Nga province, the fire broke out on 2 April. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The fire quickly engulfed the timber boat, forcing the crew member to leap into the water. It took firefighters and naval personnel about an hour to extinguish the flames.

Designed to accommodate 18 people across nine cabins, the liveaboard served primarily in the Similans, Surin, Phi-Phi, and Burma’s Mergui Archipelago. It was operated by the Thai company A-One Diving, established in 1999.

Two days later, a night ferry traveling from Surat Thani to Koh Tao, a dive-resort island, ignited on the opposite side of Thailand. This time, the ferry was filled with 97 passengers forced to jump into the sea. Reportedly, all passengers and the 11 crew members were rescued unharmed. The fire likely began in the engine room.

A warning for divers

A scuba diver from another country visiting Thailand has been fined for tweaking a whale shark’s tail in Phang Nga province. After a tour company reported the incident on 31 March, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife & Plant Conservation (DNP) imposed an undisclosed fine. The incident, captured in videos and still images by other divers and shared on social media, sparked public outrage.

The moment the diver touches the whale shark’s tail, recorded by another diver
The moment the diver touches the whale shark’s tail, recorded by another diver

In Thailand, any behaviour that harms protected animals, including whale sharks, can lead to a maximum penalty of four years in jail, a fine of 40,000 baht (approximately £860), or both.

The incident occurred at the Richelieu Rock site in Mu Koh Surin National Park, where a video showed a diver reaching out to touch the tail of a whale shark. Another diver immediately signalled that such behavior was unacceptable. Following the incident, there was criticism of the dive guides involved, but Suparat Thoncharoenphong from the tour company clarified that the diver, who was visiting the country, had been warned along with the rest of the group not to touch marine life.

Thoncharoenphong promptly reported the incident to the DNP and stated that it was the department’s responsibility to set the penalty. She expressed her disapproval of her customers’ interaction with marine life and emphasized her company’s commitment to reporting illegal actions to the authorities.

Thoncharoenphong condemned the behavior as a diving enthusiast and called for joint efforts to prevent such incidents. The DNP has notified the diver’s embassy about the incident.

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