The Independent – Ship breaking plays havoc with environment

18 February 2012 – Ship-breaking industry continues to pollute the environment alarmingly in the coastal Sitakunda Upazila of Chittagong. Scrapping of old ships is the prime cause of pollution of the local environment, including water of the sea, air. According to the reliable sources, a total of seven scrap ships have already been beached at different ship breaking yards at Sitakunda without taking legal permission from the Department of Environment (DoE) while at least five ships are waiting to be beached.

Experts opined that intention of violating the environmental law has increasingly grown among the scrap ship importers recently. As a result, the scrap ships which are risky for environment are being beached at different ship breaking yards of Sitakunda without taking due permission from the DoE.

DoE authorities have already informed the ship breakers that they will not be able to give ‘no objection certificate’ for the ships already beached and wrote to the director general of DoE to take actions against the ship breaking yards for beaching the ships without complying with the rules framed by the Ministry of Forest and Environment.

According to DoE sources, owners of ship breaking yards— Taher and Company Limited, S N Corporation, Mack International, Super Six Star Ship Breaking Yard, Golden Iron Works Limited, Darus Salam Enterprise, SK Steel and Mabia Ship Breakers—have applied for permission for beaching as many as nine scrap ships.

Seven of the ships have already been beached in the last 15 days and two more are waiting at the outer anchorage to be beached. Director of DoE, Chittagong, Zafar Alam told The Independent that owners of the ship breaking yards applied to DoE seeking ‘no objection certificate’ for beaching nine ships that had not been inspected by any technical expert team.

“According to the rules framed by the Ministry of Forests and Environment, we do not have the authority to issue ‘no objection certificate’ for beaching or scrapping a ship that has not been inspected properly by a team of experts. So we informed the ship yard owners about our inability to issue the certificate and wrote a letter to the DG of DoE for taking actions in this regard,” he added.

But the ship breaking yard owners have claimed that they had beached the ships after taking permission from the Industries Ministry. President of Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA) Hefazutur Rahman told The Independent that the ship breakers opened Letter of Credit (LC) to import the ships after getting permission from the Industries Ministry following the rules framed by the ministry for Ship Breaking and Ship Recycling Industry.

Accordingly, the ships were imported and beached, but now the DoE is not issuing the ‘no objection certificate’ to scrap the ships, he said adding that there might be some misunderstanding about rules as they were framed recently.

It might take time to understand the new rules and implement them properly, he said further. On the other hand, experts said that the Industries Ministry has no authority to give permission to beach ships following the rules drafted by the ministry as the draft has not been nodded by the High Court and published by the government as a gadget.
They also said that the draft rules framed by the Industries Ministry are full of contradiction with the High Court directives and the rules framed by the Ministry of Forest and Environment.

Mohammad Ali Shahin, program manager of non-government development organisation YPSA and a ship breaking expert, told The Independent that the rules drafted by the Industries Ministry has been full of contradiction to the existing rules framed by the DoE, Labor Law 2006, and other laws. While drafting the rules, the Industries Ministry did not follow the directives given by the High Court.

As a result, the court did not accept the rules and asked for their revision as per its directives, Shahin said, adding, but the ministry published the rules on its website asking for feedback from the stakeholders. Rezwana Hasan, executive Director of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA), told the Independent that the rules framed by the Industries Ministry are not only contradictory to the existing law but also very poor.