KARACHI, Pakistan, November 10, 2017 – Shipbreaking plot no. 54 in Gadani, Pakistan, was sealed off Thursday after a massive fire broke out aboard the ship ACES. No casualties were reported.
This is the same floating oil production tanker that blew up on November 1 last year, an explosion that caused the death of 31 workers and injured another 58 workers. The fire was caused by several gas cylinder explosions.
After having been left untouched and 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.
On the first day that the breaking began, fire broke out again as the oil residues inside the tanker have not been removed.
While there have been no reported fatalities or injuries as a result of the fire, yesterday’s event goes far in demonstrating the Pakistani Government’s negligent attitude towards workers’ rights and safety, as well as enforcing proper environmental standards.
“Clearly, no lessons have been learnt from the series of tragedies that have hit Gadani in the last year”, said Dr. Muhammad Irfan Khan, a member of the Board of Directors of Brussels-based NGO Shipbeaking Platform.
“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,” said Khan.
Following the major blast on November 1, 2016, called the worst tragedy in shipbreaking history, workers have over and over rallied in Gadani to protest against the deplorable working conditions and the lack of government support in enforcing safety and occupational health laws.
Evidently, by authorizing the breaking of the ACES to commence again, without having even ensured that the tanks were cleaned, Pakistani authorities have ignored workers’ calls as yards are allowed to return to business as usual and perpetuate the industry’s violent legacy.
The appalling working conditions at Gadani are well-known, yet European ships are still being sold to Pakistan for breaking. In the third quarter of 2017 alone, seven ships – five German, one Greek, and one Norwegian – were sold to the Gadani beach for breaking.
“It is shameful that European ship-owners benefit from a situation where worker’s lives are continuously put at risk. Unless the yards are moved to industrial platforms away from the tidal beach where the safety of workers and the containment of pollutants can be ensured, we do not recommend the breaking of ships in Pakistan,” said Ingvild Jenssen, director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
“How many more accidents and deaths at the Gadani beach is the global shipping industry ready to accept?” she asked.
The deputy commissioner of Lasbela, Shabbir Ahmed Mengal, has ordered officials to conduct an inquiry into the matter and report to him.
“Setting up the Gadani ship-breaking yard regularity authority was aimed to ensure implementation of concerned rules and regulations and improve the ship-breaking industry,” Mengal told the newspaper “Dawn.”
The NGO Shipbeaking Platform is urging the Pakistan government to ensure that end-of-life ships are dismantled in safe and clean ship recycling facilities off the beach. The group says only then will safe working conditions and the protection of the coastal environment from pollution be secured.