The North Sea Producer, a highly contaminated vessel has been imported by Janata Steel Corporation and docked at the shipbreaking yard in Sitakunda, violating national and international laws.
First commissioned in 1984, it is a floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel used by the offshore oil and gas industry to produce and process hydrocarbons for the storage of oil.
Formerly owned by Maersk, the vessel was stationed at the North Sea working the MacCulloch oil field for ConocoPhillips.
When the MacCulloch field was closed, the FPSO was brought to Teesport in Middleborough, England where it was laid up in 2015.
Having operated in the North Sea as an FPSO, the vessel contains large amounts of slops and residues that are contaminated by NORM (natural occurring radioactive material) and sulphur.
Bangladeshi law dictates the taking of No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Department of Environment (DoE), Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) and other concerned bodies. The importer, Janata Steel Corporation, did not take any NOC from DoE and MMD according to DoE sources.
Rather it has been anchored as a “producer” in the document, said DoE sources.
DoE Chittagong Region’s Director Md Masud Karim told the Dhaka Tribune that the importer did not obtain any NOC from them and they have already issued a show-cause notice to the importer taking the issue into cognizance.
Expressing grave concern over the environment and health hazards of Bangladeshi Ship breaking workers, an organization named NGO Shipbreaking Platform and a several news media ran reports earlier this month.
The NGO sent an official letter to UK Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP on October 25 citing the illegal manner in which the ship was imported to Bangladesh via third party cash only company violating EU rules and regulations for hazardous waste disposal management of such vessels.
The organisation has also sent a copy of the letter to the European Commission.
According to UK based newspaper the Gazettelive, Maersk’s Head of Sustainability, Annettee Stube has said: “The company has not been good enough to ensure that the ship was sent to scrap to a secure yard. Maersk is really, really sorry that this has happened.”
The NGO and local news reports also mentioned that the vessel allowed into Bangladesh on a fake certificate saying it did not contain any hazardous materials.
According to a report by a Dutch research centre, Danwatch, the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh are not equipped with any infrastructure that could safely remove and dispose toxic waste.
The Danwatch report, in collaboration with local daily newspaper Politiken and Broadcaster TV2, also showed footage from Sitakunda from September showing that four workers climbing a rope ladder on the side of vessel without any safety gear.
According to the NGO report, the ship was sold to cash buyers, Global Marketing Systems (GMS), one of the world’s largest companies that specialises in selling end-of-life tonnage via Conquistador Shipping Corporation, a post box company, in St Kitts and Nevis.
Aman Uddin, managing director of Janata Steel Corporation said over phone: “There is no hazardous toxic in the vessel and the ship was beached in compliance with the law.”
“We received permission from DoE, Explosive Department, Ministry of Industry for beaching the ship,” he added.
Contacted, Chief Engineer and Principal Officer of DoE Sofiqul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “No permission was taken for the North Sea Producer to be beached and cut.”
According to the High Court verdict on March 17 in 2009, to export a scrap ship, the ship-breaking yard must obtain NOC from DoE while waste should be removed or dumped before beaching at shore. The court also directed to ensure the occupational safety of the ship-breaking workers.