29 May 2011 – The government has directed all concerned to ban the toxic ship Probo Koala renamed Gulf Jash from entering Bangladeshi territorial waters, Department of Environment officials say. The move came after The Daily Star on Friday published an exclusive report that the Probo Koala, infamous for 2006 health crisis in Abidjan, has been sold to an unspecified ship breaker in Chittagong.
“We have directed the ship breakers’ association, the port authority and the Coast Guards not to allow the Gulf Jash into Bangladeshi territorial waters,” said DoE Director Zafar Alam in Chittagong.
Global Marketing System, the specialised broker of ships for demolition, sold the Gulf Jash to a Bangladeshi buyer for demolition at a Chittagong ship breaking yard. The Gulf Jash, now off Vietnam, is believed to be carrying dangerous toxic chemicals or residues of toxic chemicals which the vessel had long been carrying on board.
In 2006, toxic wastes offloaded from the Probo Koala claimed 17 lives and caused severe health problems to more than a lakh people in Abidjan of Ivory Coast. According to Jenssen Ingvild, the director of the Paris-based NGO Platform on Ship Breaking, a global coalition of human rights, environmental and labour rights groups, the Probo Koala is a global symbol of toxic trade. Since March 2009, the government has been dilly-dallying to formulate rules for the ship breaking industry in Chittagong.
The High Court, having stopped all activities in the industry following a petition by an environmental group, conditionally allowed import of ships for demolition for the period between March 7 and May 7 this year, until the draft of the rules was finalised. The court extended the time for another two months as the authorities concerned on May 3 this year sought more time to formulate the rules.
Since March 7, the day the High Court first allowed the conditional import, the ship breakers in Chittagong so far have imported 59 ocean going ships, which are now awaiting beaching and dismantling. Officials here however did not disclose the name of the importer of Gulf Jash.