Shipbreaking plot no. 54 in Gadani, Pakistan, was sealed off, after a massive fire broke out onboard the ship ACES, the same oil tanker that blew up on 1 November last year, causing death of 31 workers and injury of another 58 workers, NGO Shipbreaking Platform informed.
Fortunately, reports seem to indicate that no workers got caught in the flames of this time’s fire on the ACES.
After having been left unbroken in the same yard since last year’s catastrophic explosion, the Pakistan Department of Environment gave permission last week for the continued breaking of the ACES. However, on the first day that the breaking commenced, a massive fire broke out again as the oil residues inside the tanker had not been removed, NGO said.
“Clearly, no lessons have been learnt from the series of tragedies that have hit Gadani in the last year”, says Dr Muhammad Irfan Khan, member of the NGO Shipbeaking Platform’s Board. “More investments are sorely needed to ensure institutional capacity build-up. For the industry to be allowed to continue operating in Pakistan, authorities need to guarantee the protection of shipbreaking workers and the enforcement of existing environmental regulations.”
Following last year’s tragedy, workers been protesting in Gadani against the deplorable working conditions and the lack of Government support in enforcing safety and occupational health laws.
“Evidently, by authorising the breaking of the ACES to commence again, without having even ensured that the tanks were cleaned, Pakistani authorities blatantly ignore workers’ calls as yards are allowed to return to business as usual and perpetuate the industry’s violent legacy,” NGO Shipbreaking Platform further noted.
Despite the appalling working conditions at Gadani, European ships are still being sold to Pakistan for breaking. In the third quarter of 2017, seven ships – five German, one Greek, and one Norwegian – were sold to the Gadani, according to the Platform’s latest report.
Following yesterday’s fire, the Deputy Commissioner of Hub District – Mr. Mangal – set up an inquiry committee to look into to the EPA approval to resume breaking of the ACES and sealed the shipbreaking yard where it is beached.
“The Platform urges the Government to ensure that end-of-life ships are dismantled in safe and clean ship recycling facilities off the beach. Only then will safe working conditions and the protection of the coastal environment from pollution be safeguarded.”