Pakistan’s Gadani shipbreaking yards are set to resume operations after being closed following a series of explosions onboard the FPSO Aces on November 1. Over 25 people were killed and around 60 injured.
An order allowing the resumption of work was made by the High Court of Balochistan after the Pakistan Ship Breakers Association appealed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri.
The Association highlighted the important role the industry plays in the country’s economy. The suspension is affecting shipbreakers and their workers as well as local steel mills, it says. The price of steel has risen as a result.
Gadani is the world's third largest shipbreaking yard, with facilities along a six-mile stretch of beachfront.
An official inquiry into the explosion confirmed that the massive blast was caused by hundreds of thousands of gallons of petroleum products on board. It is believed that sparks from cutting (or the explosion of a cutting gas tank) ignited the petroleum on board.
Pakistani officials have acknowledged that beaching is often used as an opportunity for smuggling petroleum products into the country. A Ministry of Shipping report has called for an investigation into customs practices: the shipbreaking contractor had not obtained customs clearance before bringing the Aces on to the beach.
The provincial government has arranged for a $22,000 payment for families of those killed and $1,500 for each of the injured.
Accidents and injuries are common in the shipbreaking facilities of South Asia, where vessels are driven up onto the beach and dismantled under lightly regulated working conditions.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling for the closure of the Gadani beaching yards and for a move of the industry off the beach to areas that are under strict control, using alternative and safer methods in docks or along piers.