Workers in flip-flops dismantling radioactive FPSO

Maersk’s former floating production vessel North Sea Producer has hit the headlines again after high levels of radioactive materials were found on the vessel being scrapped at a Bangladeshi shipyard.

DanWatch, a Danish independent investigative and research center, has previously reported that the scrapping activity was stopped in November 2016, to allow for the hazardous materials inspection. According to the research organization, it has now been verified that ship contains dangerous radioactive material.

The organization has previously investigated how the FPSO ended at a beach-yard in Chittagong in the first place. According to DanWatch, the place is notorious for exceptionally poor working conditions and environmental pollution, with workers there dismantling giant ships using blow torches, wearing only shorts and flip-flops, and no safety gear.

“People in flip-flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip-flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong,” DanWatch has quoted Jacob Sterling, Maersk’s former director of sustainability, as saying in a 2013 blog post expressing the company’s opinion of beaching in Bangladesh.

DanWatch has called Maersk to responsibility, however, according to its report, the Danish shipping giant denied wrongdoing as it had sold the vessel to another company who then decided to scrap it in Bangladesh. Maersk has reportedly denied it was aware of the fact that the buyer would send the ship to a scrapyard in Bangladesh.

The vessel left the UK in May 2016, reaching the Bangladeshi beaches in August.

The Bangladesh Supreme Court has now given three weeks to the country’s environmental authorities to explain how it was lawful to give the green light for the scrapping of the Producer when it now appears that the ship contains illegal amounts of radioactive material.

According to Masud Kamal, an inspector at the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Center who inspected the ship, the inspection uncovered naturally-occurring radioactive materials in the ship’s pipes in excess of the permitted amount.

The inspection is still ongoing, as the inspectors are examining whether there are other harmful substances to be cleaned before the scrapping is resumed.

The North Sea Producer – now only named Producer – previously owned by a joint venture between Denmark’s Maersk FPSOs and Brazil’s Odebrecht, had spent almost two decades producing oil in the North Sea before it was sold and beached in Bangladesh for scrapping.


Maersk: Regrettable situation


In a statement sent to Offshore Energy Today, a Maersk spokesperson said: “The vessel in question was sold and handed over to the buyer in the UK in April 2016, whereby the operational and legal responsibility of the vessel transferred to the buyer.

“The vessel was sold for redeployment for which it had all the needed permissions. The buyer, however, chose to sell it for scrapping in Bangladesh. As a result, we terminated all cooperation with the buyer during summer 2016. As previously communicated, we find the situation very regrettable.

“We have since chosen to extend A.P. Moller – Maersk’s responsibility in regards to responsible ship recycling – not only for our own vessels but also for the vessels we sell. In September 2016, we introduced requirements that will minimize the economic incentive for buyers to scrap irresponsible, in order to minimize the risk that third parties send vessels to scrapping at a yard that does not meet A.P. Moller – Maersk’s standards.”



Click on the link to read the full background story, as shared by DanWatch, on the controversial vessel scrapping in Bangladesh



Offshore Energy Today Staff