Govt being deprived of revenue
In order to avoid paying taxes, several ship breaking yards of Chittagong are building barges without obtaining permission from the concerned authorities.
A barge is a shoal-draft flat-bottomed vessel, built mainly for transporting bulk goods on rivers and canals.
The barges are being built at the ship breaking yards illegally using the plates of end-of-life ships brought there for dismantling, even though they only have the license for the dismantlement.
This was revealed by the Department of Environment (DoE) after a recent inspection of the ship breaking yards.
On February 11, Inspectors Harun Or Rashed Pathan and Jahanara Yasmin of DoE visited five ship breaking yards located at Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong.
During the inspection, the DoE inspectors found that four of the five ship breaking yards were building barges illegally.
The four ship breaking yards are Ms HA Mannan Steel owned by Rezaul Karim, Ms Crystal Shippers Ltd owned by Nowshir Hasan, Ms Ocean Ispat Ltd owned by Salah Uddin, and Ziri Subedar Steel Re-Rolling Mills Ltd owned by Lokman Hakim.
During the visit to Ms HA Mannan Steel, the inspectors found that a barge was recently built at the ship breaking yard.
Yard Supervisor Saiful Islam informed the inspectors that the construction of the barge was completed a few days ago.
The yard officials said that the dismantling activities have remained suspended at the yard for the past 8-9 years. However, a barge was constructed without obtaining permission from the DoE.
The inspectors also found that the construction of a barge was at the final stage at Ms Crystal Shippers Ltd ship breaking yard.
The construction of two barges was ongoing during the time of inspection at Ms Ocean Ispat Ltd. Another barge was constructed at the yard just a few days ago.
At Ziri Subedar Steel Re-Rolling Mills, the inspectors found two barges being built at the yard, one of which was at the final stage of construction.
DoE Inspector Harun said the government is being deprived of a huge amount of revenue due to the unauthorized shipbuilding activities at the ship breaking yards.
"As per Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (Amendment, 2010) and Environment Conservation Rules, 1997 (Amendment, 2002), we have recommended filing enforcement cases against the offending enterprises on charge of unauthorized shipbuilding activities at the ship breaking yards,” added Harun.
The inspector also added that several ship breaking yards were fined last year as they were involved in illegal shipbuilding.
In 2019, Golden Steel Alloy Works Ltd was fined Tk5 lakh for building ship at their ship breaking yard illegally and having a non-functional waste management system.
Nazmul Ahsan, assistant secretary of Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association (BSBRA), told the Dhaka Tribune that the four errant ship breaking yards are members of the BSBRA.
“The ship breaking yards must comply with all the rules and regulations. The DoE should conduct regular monitoring so that none of them can violate the rules. However, at the same time, the ship breaking yards should not be harassed unduly in the name of inspection,” he added.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, DoE’s Chittagong Region Director Moazzam Hossain said separate licenses from separate authorities are required for shipbuilding and ship breaking yards.
“Permissions from several agencies like Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and Department of Shipping are required for shipbuilding activities. It is not permissible to build ships by obtaining the license for ship breaking. We will take disciplinary action against the offending ship breaking yards,” said the DoE Director.