14 November 2017

To adopt marine environment law

Over the years, as the countries are becoming more industrialised, they are facing huge amount of waste with a corresponding increase of hazardous waste. At the same time, environmental awareness has grown and legislation has been developed to control the handling of wastes in general and hazardous waste in particular.

In August 14, 2016, Shitakunda based ship breaking industry MS Janata Steel Corp. imported a ship (North Sea Producer/MT Producer) for wrecking. According to a Brussels-based international environmental agency (NGO Ship-breaking Platform), the ship is likely to be carrying a plenty of toxic wastes and it also contains dangerous quantities of radioactive materials. As per Bangladesh's Atomic Energy Center, Test resulted from some areas of the ship showed radiation in excess of allowable limits. The vessel is also likely to contain large amounts of residues that are contaminated by naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and sulphur in addition to various other hazardous materials in its structure and tanks. Moreover, under the European Waste Shipment Regulation, the tanker's export from the UK for demolition in Bangladesh was illegal, thus NGO Ship breaking Platform calls on the UK Government to hold the Maersk owned North Sea Production Company responsible for illegal trafficking in hazardous waste.

The Basel Convention 1989 focuses on the regulation of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes to protect marine environment. In addition, it protected developing countries from importing such wastes that they are unable to manage in an environmentally sound manner. As rightly claimed by DANWATCH, Bangladesh shipyards are not well equipped with any infrastructure that could safely remove and dispose of such toxic wastes. MT Producer allowed into Bangladesh based on fake certificates stating that the tanker did not contain any hazardous materials. Moreover, as per Section 20 of Environment Conservation Act 1995 and Rule 18 of the Ship Breaking & Hazardous Management Rules 2011, each importer and exporter of hazardous wastes is bound to comply with the provisions of the Basel Convention 1989. Even though, Basel does not contain a system for ship recycling but this provision has been discussed in Hong Kong Convention 2009. Bangladesh is not a party to this convention but still it is the third largest ship recycling country. In 2011, Bangladesh adopted the Ship Breaking & Recycling Rules 2011, which discussed about ship recycling. Furthermore, Article 192 of UNCLOS 1982 confers a general obligation upon the member States to protect and preserve the marine environment. In addition, Article 194 of UNCLOS 1982 states about the measures to prevent, reduce and to control marine pollution. Thus, being a signatory, importing MT Producer is a complete violation of the Environment Conservation Act 1995, Basel Convention 1989 as well as UNCLOS 1982 to bring a toxic vessel for wrecking. Moreover, Article 195 of UNCLOS 1982 states that the States shall not transfer directly/indirectly any damage or hazards from one area to another to prevent, reduce and control the marine pollution. Thus, the act done by the Maersk owned North Sea Production Company is unlawful.

The violation is not only limited to the Environmental aspect. According to ILO requirements, the employer should have overarching responsibility for occupational health and safety. The Ship Breaking & Recycling Rules 2011 also contains provision for the worker's safety equipments by the Ship breaking yards. In the previously mentioned context, it is another violation of the Labor Law by threatening the life of the employees. Finally, it is submitted that Bangladesh should adopt a conclusive & comprehensive legal framework for the marine environment to prevent, reduce and control of marine pollution and safety of navigation as the country is entering into the era of blue economy.

Source: the daily star. 14 November 2017

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