Death Toll Rises in Pakistan Shipbreaking Fire

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By MarEx 2016-11-03 21:28:15

Pakistani media reported Thursday that the death toll from an explosion and fire at a shipbreaking yard has risen to 20, with as many as 130 additional workers missing and feared dead.

Other reports put the numbers at 19 dead, 65 injured and 50 missing. The higher casualty figures are disputed by the regional government and could not be independently confirmed.

The accident occurred when laborers were using cutting torches in a section of an old tanker which had not been properly cleaned, news outlet Dunya News reported. The area where the workers were cutting still had oil sludge contamination, leading to the fire, Dunya said. 

Video shows the tanker still burning days after the explosion. Pakistan's Geo TV suggested that occasional blasts can still be heard within the hull. 

Officials have taken the president of the Gadani shipbreaking association and the scrapping foreman for the tanker into custody. Cases have been filed against two additional suspects.

Regional and national officials have promised a thorough investigation and penalties for any and all found responsible, including government representatives. 

Nasir Mansoor, deputy-general secretary of Pakistan's National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), said at a press conference Wednesday that the tanker should have been thoroughly cleaned before work began. He suggested that the shipbreaking yard had never been inspected, and he alleged that politicians tended to ignore poor working conditions in all sectors of Pakistani industry. He called for criminal charges against the shipbreaker's association and compensation for the deceased workers' next of kin. 

Mansoor put the total number of the missing at 150. 

Scrapped FPSO Tanker Came from Indonesian Terminal

On Wednesday, the advocacy organization NGO Shipbreaking Platform provided additional background on the origins of the vessel involved in the explosion. The ship’s name was Aces (IMO # 8021830, exnames Federal I, Navarino, Flinders and Mobil Flinders), an FPSO tanker. She was sold by Jakarta-based PT Sinar Mentari Prima and was formerly moored at the Jabung Batanghari terminal of government-owned firm BPMIGAS.

She had been renamed and reflagged just before scrapping. Shipbreaking Platform says that this is typical practice in sales to “cash buyer” intermediaries, who acquire vessels from shipowners and then negotiate their resale to third party shipbreakers.