The Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker J. NAT is currently being towed towards the infamous shipbreaking beach of Chattogram. The ship left Indonesian waters on 18 April even though local activists warned Indonesian authorities about the toxicity of the vessel. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Basel Action Network (BAN), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), IPEN, Nexus3 Foundation and Zero Mercury Working Group have now warned Bangladesh of the breach of international waste laws, and urged authorities to halt the import of the ship.
According to the Shipbreaking Platform, official documents indicate that the tanker has more than 1500 tons of hazardous waste from the oil extraction process onboard, including 1000 tons of slop oil, 500 tons of oily water and 60 tons of sludge oil contaminated with high concentration of mercury. The J. NAT likely also contains high amounts of mercury in its structures, as well as in ballast waters.
Due to the likely high concentrations of mercury in the steel hull of the FSO J. NAT and the blow torch method used to cut vessels, there is a high risk of inhalation of mercury vapour. Exposure to mercury, even at low levels, has been linked to central nervous system damage, kidney and liver impairment, reproductive and developmental disorders, defects in foetuses and learning deficits.
In a recent court judgment on the illegal import of another oil and gas unit, the Bangladesh Supreme Court denounced the fraudulent documents claiming that the vessel was toxic-free, when in fact was contaminated by radioactive substances. The Court called for full transparency on the hazardous materials onboard end-of-life vessels imported to Bangladesh.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan – Supreme Court lawyer and Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association
The Platform has documented drill ships, floating platforms, jack-up rigs and FPSOs/FSOs scrapped in recent years. Many were beached in South Asia, including units owned by Diamond Offshore, Maersk, Odebrecht, SAIPEM, SBM Offshore and Transocean. Shipbreaking Platform noted that the J. NAT case resembles the recent export from Indonesia to the Indian beach of Alang of SBM’s mercury-laden tanker YETAGUN, which was investigated by Dutch media Zembla.
With many units to be decommissioned in the next few years, it is high time that the oil and gas industry collectively seeks sustainable solutions for the recycling of its floating units. All actors involved in the oil and gas supply chain, directly or indirectly, have the responsibility to not cause harm to workers and the environment in developing countries
stated Ingvild Jenssen – Executive Director and Founder – NGO Shipbreaking Platform.