Toxic Trade News / 6 April 2006
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Inquiry sought into scrapping of British ship in Pakistan
by (Ernakulam,Kerala,India)
6 April 2006 (Islamabad) – The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has demanded an inquiry into the release of hazardous chemicals from an asbestos-laden British ship that is being dismantled in a shipyard in Pakistan.

The Sir Geriant, a veteran of the Falklands War, is being broken up at the Gadani shipyard in southwestern Balochistan province.

Critics have alleged that the work is being undertaken in violation of the Basel Convention, which both Pakistan and Britain have signed and which is designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between countries, particularly from developed to developing nations.

"We have asked the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the breaking of this ship and such other vessels as a lot of material used in these ships can be termed hazardous by international standards," Hammad Naqi Khan, director of the WWF-Pakistan's freshwater and toxic programme, told DPA.

Khan said massive quantities of asbestos were found dumped along the coastal areas of the Lasbella district in Balochistan.

The British defence ministry reportedly sold the ship to Babcock Support Services on the condition that it would not be sent to a developing country for scrapping. Babcock also reportedly attached a similar proviso when it sold the vessel to Regency Projects.

The ship sailed from Britain early this year and was purchased by the Pakistani company Bismillah Maritime, which is dismantling the ship laden with asbestos, a carcinogen.

"It is also an indirect violation of international conventions as it is the responsibility of developed countries to ensure that these ships are decontaminated before sending them to developing countries for scrapping," Khan said.

The WWF official also criticized the "poor enforcement" of laws by Pakistani environmental authorities.

Exposing ship-breaking personnel to hazardous material such as asbestos also breaches International Labour Organization's guidelines, he said.

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