Toxic Ship Leaves Bangladesh
Having blocked the import of a vessel contaminated with asbestos and other harmful substances last week, port authorities in Chittagong today confirmed that the toxic ship MV Asia Union has left the territorial waters of Bangladesh.1 The illegal attempt to import the Chinese-owned ship, formerly known as MV Humber and MV Cast Otter, was made by Cosco Shipping, a subsidiary of Beijing-based China Ocean Shipping Company. For over a year, the ship has been looking for a country willing to tackle the myriad of problems its dismantling presents. The vessel, a floating cocktail of toxic chemicals, is said to contain asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyl, toxic paints and chemical residues.2 It is believed that Indian ship-breakers had previously refused to undertake the scrapping of the ship.
Even amongst Asian ship-breaking nations willing to trade toxic exposures for foreign exchange, Bangladesh has a reputation for its lax laws. Since a High Court ruling in March 2011 which relaxed restrictions on the import of scrap vessels, permission has been granted for the import of 100 ships, mostly cargo ships and tankers. Despite the auspicious regime for ship-breakers in Bangladesh, the MV Asia Union's 79 deficiencies, combined with its failure to comply with regulations it did not obtain the mandatory No Objection Certificate or open a Letter of Credit could not be overlooked by port officials, government authorities or the Coastguard. Prior to the ship's arrival in Chittagong, the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association had warned the Department of Environment, the Mercantile Marine Department and Chittagong Customs about the vessel's destination and urged the authorities not to allow the contaminated ship entry to the country.3
September 29, 2011
1 Ali Khan M. Toxic ship told to stay afar. September 20, 2011.
2 Chinese Toxic Ship Asked to Stay Off the Port Chittagong. 21 September 2011.
3 Ali Khan M. Environment dept to decide its fate after inspection. September 29, 2011
See also: Chinese toxic ship finally leaves Ctg. September 29, 2011.