The probe committee, formed to find whether an imported scrap vessel contains any toxic residues, did not inspect the ship till yesterday, the last day for filing its report.
On Sunday, the Department of Environment (DoE) formed the seven-member committee to detect if MT Producer, now at a shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, had any toxic residues.
The committee, formed following an order of the director general of the DoE, was asked to submit a report in three working days, said a press release.
Contacted yesterday, officials of the DoE, however, claimed that the deadline for filing the report has been extended by four more working days. The number of the committee members has also been increased to nine.
A weapons expert from the Arms Forces Division and another expert from the customs have joined, they claimed.
The committee, formed on November 5 and led by Masud Karim, director of DoE, Chittagong region, also includes two experts from Nuclear Energy Commission, an explosive expert, a professor of chemical engineering at BUET and a maritime expert (captain rank) from the Marine Academy and also a representative (expert) nominated by Bangladesh Ship Breakers' Association (BSBA).
Asked why the committee did not inspect the ship, Masud said it was difficult to have all the committee members together as they live in different parts of the country.
Contacted, Kazi Sarwar Imtiaz Hashmi, additional director general of DoE, said they would look into why the probe body could not inspect the ship in the three working days.
“We are also under pressure for forming the probe body after giving our clearance to have the ship beached,” he said.
“We gave the clearance but it does not mean we cannot investigate any allegations,” he said. “It's the DoE's duty to investigate and reinvestigate such allegations.”
Contacted, Abu Taher, president of BSBA, claimed that the ship does not have toxic residues. “All the concerned departments had inspected the ship and gave the clearance,” he said.
According to Platform on Shipbreaking, a Brussels-based NGO, the Maersk-owned floating oil production and storage tanker, North Sea Producer, left the UK in May and was directly towed to Bangladesh. It arrived in the country, after being renamed MT Producer, on August 14.
The ship is currently being torn apart on a tidal beach, sadly known for human rights abuses and environmental pollution caused by improper shipbreaking.
Ms Janata Steel Corporation imported the vessel for breaking at a shipbreaking yard in Sitakunda.