13 November 2016

Gadani shipbreaking tragedy: probe body holds government deptt/s, ship owner responsible

The inquiry committee established on the directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to probe the Gadani incident has put the onus on the government departments and ship owner. The Committee headed by Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain has completed the report of Gadani ship-breaking yard incident and it would be submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the upcoming Monday.

Addressing a press conference, Rana Tanveer Hussain said that 26 people died and 56 others got injured in the incident while there are rumours that three persons are still missing. Though there is no reality in it, the ministry would publish an advertisement in newspapers so that relatives of missing workers could contact the ministry.

The minister said that after thorough investigation, it has been revealed that the incident happened due to the negligence of the government departments and the owner of the ship. No Objection Certificate (NoC) had not been issued to the owner of ship-breaking company from the relevant government departments but they started work without official approval, said the minister, adding that the government departments also failed to stop the company from working.

The minister lamented that ship-breaking is generating Rs 12 billion annually; however, there is no medical facility and fire extinguishing equipment around the ship-breaking yard. The minister admitted lacunas in checking and balance system, saying that ships which were rejected in India and Bangladesh are being accepted in Pakistan. He further said that at the time of incident, the ship was carrying 132 metric tonnes furnace oil, 1,100 metric tonnes sludge, 27 metric tonnes diesel, and 30,000 metric tonnes lubricants. The government has suspended the officials of grade-19 and grade-20 who were found guilty of negligence and strict action has been proposed against the culprits.

He further said that an inquiry committee was set up on the directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to submit a detailed report within 15 days so that necessary action could be taken to avoid such incidents in future.

The committee, headed by him, was comprised of secretaries of the Cabinet, Defence Production, and Ports and Shipping, Chief Secretary Balochistan, Additional Secretary Defence and Managing Director Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. Rana Tanveer said the committee visited Karachi and Gadani Shipyards and probed various stakeholders, including the owner of ship, labour union representatives and senior officials of different department.

The officials along with the minister informed media that the provincial government has announced Rs 0.5 million compensation for the heirs of every deceased and Rs 0.3 million for every injured person. Replying to a query regarding the way forward, Rana Tanveer said the committee has prepared two types of recommendations, including short-term and long-term, to avoid such incidents in future.

Rana Tanveer said the committee has also proposed a separate ministry of maritime affairs in the report. "The committee has also recommended formation of a board headed by Chief Secretary Balochistan and having representatives from Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Navy and CBA Union, besides experienced persons, to take all decisions regarding ship-breaking," he added.

Source: business recorder. 12 November 2016

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