Daily Mirror - Print Edition

Sri Lanka still in the dark about hazardous wastes in ship from the US

02 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • Ship supposed to arrive on April 21
  • Ship should declare contents 72 hours prior to arrival time
  • Basel convention bans hazardous wastes into country 
  • Procedure in place to deal with such transshipments of containers in Colombo

By Kelum Bandara 

Sri Lanka is not yet aware of the nature of hazardous materials in the Singapore cargo ship Dali chartered by Maersk, which crashed into the Baltimore, US bridge on March 26, carrying 764 tons of hazardous materials as reported by the US media, an official said.   

According to information available, there are 57 containers with such toxic materials that can be categorized under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. 

 The waste included mostly corrosives, flammables, miscellaneous hazardous materials, and Class-9 hazardous materials, including explosives & lithium-ion batteries – in 56 containers. So says the US National Transportation Safety Board, still ‘analyzing the ship’s manifest to determine what was onboard’ in its other 4,644 containers. 
Prior to Baltimore, the Dali called at New York and Norfolk, Virginia, which has the world’s largest naval base. Colombo was to be its next scheduled call, going around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, taking 27 days, scheduled to land just after our New Year. The US National Transportation Safety Board has reported that the ship had been carrying 764 tons of hazardous materials including explosives to SL in 56 containers.   

Asked for a comment in this regard, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Chairman Keith Bernard said the ship should declare the contents of containers only 72 hours before the time of arrival into the Colombo Port.   

“The ship is supposed to arrive here on April 21, 2024. It means they are supposed to inform us by April 17 or so. There is enough time. If there are containers with hazardous items as declared by them, we will isolate such containers in accordance with protocols. As a major transshipment hub, we have a procedure set in place to deal with such containers. Most likely, these containers are meant for transshipment,” he said.   

Asked about the procedure if the containers are meant to be allowed into the country, he said the clearance of the Defence Ministry and others would be sought.   

However, Deputy Director of the Central Environment Authority (CEA) Ajith Wijesundara said it is not yet clear whether the ship was carrying containers with hazardous wastes or toxic substances. According to the Basel Convention, he said such wastes would not be allowed into the country.   

 The text of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on March 22, 1989 and entered into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the twentieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, formal confirmation, approval or accession, on May 5, 1992. The text has been subject to various amendments since its adoption.   

He added that toxic substances are imported as raw materials and guidelines are applied.