The scrapped FPSO Aces is on fire again on the beach at Gadani, Pakistan. Last November, almost exactly a year ago, an explosion and fire on the defunct vessel killed 31 workers and seriously injured 58 more. Activists suggest that it may well have been the worst accident in the history of modern shipbreaking.
NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports that Aces lay untouched at the same yard for 12 months after the explosion. Last week, the Pakistan Department of Environment gave permission for work to resume on her recycling. On the first day that the breaking recommenced, a fire broke out again, as the oil residues inside the tanker had not been removed. While there have been no reported fatalities or injuries as a result of the latest fire, NGO Shipbreaking Platform alleged that the new incident demonstrates “the Pakistani government’s negligent attitude towards workers’ rights and safety, as well as enforcing proper environmental standards.”
Local officials have once again closed the shipbreaking plot where the Aces is beached, and they are investigating how the operation won the government’s approval to resume work.
“Clearly, no lessons have been learnt from the series of tragedies that have hit Gadani in the last year,” said 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.”
Ingvild Jenssen, director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, criticized European shipowners for continuing to do business (through intermediaries) with Pakistani shipbreakers. “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,” she said. “How many more accidents and deaths at the Gadani beach is the global shipping industry ready to accept?”
Pakistani union leaders contend that Gadani’s shipbreaking laborers work in dangerous conditions for low wages, and that too little has been done to improve conditions. At a rally on Wednesday in Gadani, NTUF President Rafiq Baloch said that nine people have died on the beach in similar accidents since the Aces fire one year ago.