Bangladesh: Radioactive Waste Found on Maersk’s FPSO, Scrapping Stopped

The High Court of Bangladesh has halted the breaking of the floating oil production and storage tanker, North Sea Producer, following discovery of radioactive substances aboard the vessel.

The radioactive substances accumulated over the years of processing crude oil were found in inside pipes, with radioactive level above permissible, Danish TV2 reported.

“Following a petition filed by our member Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), the courts have maintained the halt in breaking the ship,” NGO Shipbreaking Platform confirmed to World Maritime News.

As explained, a division bench of the Bangladesh High Court has directed the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA), and the Marine Port Initiative (MPI) of the Customs to produce their reports on radioactive contamination of the FPSO before the court within 10 weeks.

At the same time, UK environmental authorities DEFRA are said to be investigating the circumstances surrounding the export of the hazardous waste laden North Sea Producer from the Tees river in the UK to Bangladesh.

North Sea Producer, previously owned by Maersk, left the UK in May 2016 and was towed to Bangladesh, where it arrived on 14 August 2016, only to be beached two days later at the Janata Steel shipbreaking yard in Chittagong.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform said back in October 2016 that the vessel likely contained large amounts of highly contaminated residues including natural occurring radioactive material (NORM).

Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards are not equipped with any infrastructure that could safely remove and dispose of such toxic wastes.

As disclosed by Maersk at the time, the ship was sold for further operational use, without revealing the identity of the buyer.

“The Producer was sold by Maersk to cash buyers GMS. It is obvious that Maersk knew that the ship would end up being scrapped on a South Asian beach putting both workers and the environment at risk. We have called upon the UK to hold both Maersk and GMS accountable for the illegal export of this toxic laden ship. The case is very indicative of the dodgy practice of selling ships for scrap via middle men known as cash buyers,Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the NGO Shipbreaking said.

According to the platform, the North Sea Producer was allowed into Bangladesh based on a fake certificate stating that the tanker did not contain any hazardous materials.

“A false declaration dated 3 August, 2016 was submitted to the Bangladesh authorities by the St Kitts and Nevis based post box company called Conquistador Shipping Corporation set up by cash buyers Global Marketing Systems (GMS). The Bangladesh Department of Environment however never issued environmental clearance in favor of breaking of the vessel,” the platform added.

The vessel was owned and operated by UK-based North Sea Production Company, a joint venture between Danish Maersk and Brazilian oil & gas company Odebrecht, with 50% ownership each, and operated in the North Sea as an FPSO.

Maersk is yet to reply to World Maritime News on the matter.

World Maritime News Staff