Friday, April 16, 2010

Toxic Waste Ship Investigated in Nigeria

Toxic Waste Ship Berths

By Ejiofor Alike and Chinazor Megbolu, 04.16.2010
Nigeria ThisDay

Aship laden with toxic waste with registration name Maersk Vashville Hamburg berthed yesterday at the Tincan Island Port, Lagos.

Worried about the deadly implications of the arrival of the ship, relevant government authorities are meeting today to work out a plan of action.

THISDAY had reported that the ship loaded with toxic waste was headed for the country today but it arrived ahead of time.

A Dutch agency, VROM-Inspectorate and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) blew the alarm.

And as expected, the ship from Maersk Line, with registration number IMO 9304760, berthed at the Tin Can Island Port.

The important meeting will take place at and would involve officials from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Customs Service, State Security Services (SSS), Nigeria Police, National Environmental Standards & Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and other relevant Federal Government agencies.

Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of NESREA Dr. Ngeri S. Benebo told THISDAY yesterday that her agency has not been receiving the cooperation of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) since the arrival of the ship.

“My deputy director came from the headquarters and on her way, she was called by the Ports Authority that they (NPA) have already checked the manifest and the container is not there. That was what the NPA told her.

“At the same time, the Maersk Line also called my office and told my Special Assistant at about 2pm that she should tell me that they have checked the manifest and the container is not there. So, we should tell the ports authority to allow them do whatever they want to do. But I told her to tell them that I can’t attend to that now and I am coming to Lagos,” she said.

She further stated that the NPA invited her deputy director to a meeting scheduled by 5pm yesterday but she insisted that their assignment was to check the manifest and not to attend any meeting.

“But there is nobody to give instructions, everybody in NPA has gone. My officers have been here but they have not talked to my officers on the issue. But hopefully, by 10 am tomorrow (that is, today), we will meet at the Port Manager’s office and may be, from there, we come here and start work,” she said.

Benebo stated that she was not satisfied with the level of security of the ship and expressed worry that the ship or its content might disappear.

The director-general stated that the container was being tracked abroad to be impounded before being shipped into Nigeria but it slipped along the line.

“They were being tracked when they were about to be shipped so that they can be impounded. But along the line, the containers slipped and they could not locate them. So, by the time they were able to successfully track the containers to know which ship would carry them, they realised that it was on this ship coming to Nigeria.

"We got the alert on April 6. As a matter of fact, they said it was going to berth on April 16. So, they too must have got wind that Nigerians are on alert. They felt that we may not be prepared. So, they made sure it was here this morning,” she explained.

She confirmed that despite several protests, the Nigerian Customs has rebuffed all attempts to accommodate NESREA in the ports, thereby undermining efforts at policing the influx of toxic and hazardous products into the country.

The VROM Inspectorate, an independent unit of the Ministry of Housing Spatial Planning and the Environment, is the abbreviation of the Dutch name for housing, land-use planning and environmental management while INECE is the global network of environmental compliance and enforcement practitioners.

THISDAY gathered from documents obtained exclusively that the vessel, NASVILLE operated by American President Lines (APL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, has some 70 storage (lead) batteries classified as Basel-code A1180, broken television among other things.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposa (Basel Convention), which Nigeria is a signatory to, lists products under code A1180 to include waste electrical and electronic assemblies or scrap containing components such as accumulators and other batteries, mercury-switches.

Others include glass from cathode-ray tubes and other activated glass and PCB-capacitors, or contaminated with constituents such as cadmium, mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyl.

These hazardous wastes are responsible for a wide range of abnormal health conditions including congenital heart diseases, cancer, and leukaemia.

This is not the first time that a ship with toxic waste is being sent to Nigeria.

In April 1987, a ship with solid toxic waste arrived the Coco Port in Delta State through Benin Republic but then it was not illegal to transport wastes to other countries. However, the uproar it generated prompted laws to change such act, particularly in countries that lack the capacity to turn waste into good use. All the residents where it was dumped died within 3 years.

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