15 May 2010

High Court directive on scrap ship import must be followed strictly:

Cutting work is on progress without wearing safety glasses & hard hat in a shipbreaking yard in Chittagong
The High Court of Bangladesh has reasserted that pre-cleaning and environmental certificates must be collected before ships are brought to our territorial waters by the importers. The directive came after the HC found that shipping ministry officials were misinterpreting the court's earlier directive issued in March this year and allowing import of ships for scrapping without collecting such certificates.

The HC directive is important for many reasons. There have been quite a few fatal accidents in our shipbreaking yards over the last few years which took a heavy toll of human lives. It is no secret that most of the shipbreaking yards, which have poor safety and maintenance records, have a highly negative impact on the environment, apart from their being a cause of loss of lives.

Against this backdrop, the HC ordered the ship importers to collect the pre-cleaning and environmental certificates from the exporting countries. It is not clear how the shipping ministry officials could bend the rule and interprets it as being applicable only to 'green ships'.

Are they not aware of the junk ships that pose such a grave risk to the workers at the shipbreaking yards?
How could they overlook the fact that exporters of ships containing toxic substances still treat Bangladesh as a soft target?

The point can be elaborated by the attempts they made in the past to burden us with such ships that no other country in the world would accept!

In fact, the shipbreaking yards are neither following the safety regulations, nor attaching due value to the workers' lives. Yet, the number of the yards is rising sharply, which suggests that the business is highly profitable. The point now is whether the owners will be allowed to carry on the business which is an environmental concern of great magnitude, or some safety regulations will be introduced to protect the workers and the environment?

The ship importers could have eliminated the risk factors to a great extent by obtaining pre-cleaning and environmental certificates from the importers, but their failure to do so allows hazardous ships to enter our territorial waters.

We welcome the HC's position on import of ships and fully endorse the renewal of its directive that the ships wanting to enter our territorial waters must obtain the pre-cleaning and environmental certificates. This will eliminate the hazards associated with allowing uncertified ships to be scrapped in our yards.

Source: The Daily Star. Editorial. 15 May 2010 

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