Officials in Pakistan have halted the scrapping of oil and LPG tankers at the Gadani Shipbreaking Yard, one of the largest demolition yards in South Asia, following a string of fatal accidents involving ships of this type.
The ban was imposed Thursday by the Chief Minister for the province of Balochistan, Sardar Sanaullah Khan Zehri, during a high-level meeting with government representatives and stakeholders, local media reports. The ban is expected to be in effect until proper safety mechanisms are put in place to ensure the safety of workers at the yards. Officials also announced plans to set up a Gadani Shipbreaking Regulatory Authority to oversee regulations and carry out infrastructure projects, including the construction of roads, emergency medical services, and an upgraded fire station, according to reports.
Last November Pakistan was rocked by its worst shipbreaking accident when at least 28 workers were killed and more 50 suffered injuries when a tanker beached in Gadani exploded and caught fire. In January, another five workers were killed in another explosion on a beached LPG tanker at Gadani.
The ban comes amid mounting pressure on the shipping industry and South Asia’s ship breakers to clean up their act with regards to ship breaking practices. In 2016, the vast majority of ships sent for demolition ended up in South Asia on the beaches of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where dismantling ships within the tidal zone is still the preferred method – even at the most advanced, Hong Kong Convention-compliant yards. Worker safety is also a major concern at many of these places, as facilities often lack appropriate safety equipment and emergency services.
Located on the Arabian Sea, Gadani Shipbreaking Yard is one of the largest in the world. Last year, a total of 141 ships representing over 6 million gross tonnes were scrapped in Pakistan, making it the third largest shipbreaking nation behind Bangladesh and India, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.