The post of director general (DG) of shipping seems too attractive to let go for recently transferred AKM Shafiqullah as he went to court to get an order in his favour and illegally occupied the DG's office for two days.
Shafiqullah reportedly served the ship-breaking yards' interest and allowed a toxic ship blacklisted by environmentalist group Greenpeace to be dismantled in Bangladesh.
The newly-appointed DG of Department of Shipping Commodore Bazlur Rahman joined on April 2 but former DG Shafiqullah kept going to the office ahead of him and occupying it.
A shipping ministry high official had to intervene yesterday and verbally ask Shafiqullah to leave the office. Shafiqullah did so but locked the door of the DG's office and left with the keys. Unable to get into his new office Bazlur had informed the ministry of the matter, sources in the ministry said.
"Later we managed to open the door and the new DG finally got his office," said a shipping official requesting anonymity.
When asked about the incident, Bazlur refused to make any comment.
It is alleged that Shafiqullah provided No Objection Certificate (NOC) for a Greenpeace blacklisted ship to be dismantled here even though only the department of environment has the jurisdiction to provide such NOCs.
The Prime Minister's Office had issued an order in 2006 not to permit any ships blacklisted by Greenpeace inside Bangladesh. During his four-year term as the DG, Shafiqullah was calling the shots at the shipping department and the office started giving NOCs for dismantling ships.
The government on contract appointed Bazlur Rahman, a retired officer of Bangladesh Navy, as the DG of the department of shipping on March 31 and he joined on April 2. The ministry did not give any new post to Shafiqullah.
Shafiqullah then went to High Court and filed a writ petition to get a status quo and the High Court gave an order to this effect. Getting the order, Shafiqullah went to "his office" Monday around 8:30am and told officials there that he was still the DG. He did the same yesterday.
The shipping ministry high official yesterday had to explain to Shafiqullah that the High Court status quo order means that everything will be as it is and since the order was issued after Bazlur became DG, the court order actually went against Shafiqullah.
ALLOWING BLACKLISTED SHIPS
During his four-year term, Shafiqullah influenced the department to provide NOC to MT Enterprise, a ship blacklisted by Greenpeace.
Following a meeting with Bangladesh Ship-Breakers Association (BSBA), he formed a committee comprising officials of the department of shipping to determine whether MT Enterprise had toxic substances.
According to government rules, the shipping department does not have any authority to provide such certificates to ship breakers or to form any committee to determine presence of toxic substances in a ship. All industries including the ship-breaking industry are supposed to take NOCs from the department of environment.
Documents recovered at the Ministry of Shipping say that Shafiqullah had meetings with BSBA in August, 2008, about importing the Greenpeace blacklisted ship.
The DG later formed the inspection committee to determine whether hazardous substances were present in the ship. This was done to facilitate the importers of MT Enterprise, shipping ministry sources claimed.
The committee inspected MT Enterprise for four hours and observed "the amounts of toxic substances are not excessive than generally found".
Interestingly, records also say that before forming the committee the shipping department provided NOC to MT Enterprise mentioning that it could not check out the Greenpeace website due to lack of internet connection. They provided NOC based on the information provided by the importer, Madina Enterprise.
However, the department of shipping later cancelled the NOC as they came to know that Madina Enterprise provided incorrect information about the ship, the documents say.
The Supreme Court recently directed the government to take clearance certificate from the department of environment before importing any ship for scrapping. The court also directed not to import any poisonous Greenpeace-blacklisted ships and to clean up all ships before they enter Bangladesh territory.