BM depot blast: And now, the wait for changes begins
Taking 20 recommendations of the probe committee that investigated the BM Container Depot blast into cognisance, Cabinet Division has issued letters to ministries and departments concerned, asking them to take action following the suggestions and ensure punishment.
On July 25, Mohammed Delwar Hossain, deputy secretary of the Cabinet Division, issued the letters to eight government bodies, including the commerce ministry, energy and minerals ministry, defence ministry, shipping ministry, and industries ministry.
The probe body, formed by Chattogram divisional commissioner's office, submitted its report on June 6. It found that sheer negligence of the depot owners, as well as lax monitoring and enforcement of laws by the government authorities, led to the fatal blast in Sitakunda on June 4, which killed at least 51 people and injured 250.
The source of the blast, which triggered a massive fire, was one of the containers full of hydrogen peroxide stored in the open, violating relevant rules, it found.
The probe committee found that the office of Dangerous Cargo Inspection does not have its own workforce, rather the NOC's form, which was submitted for the chemical containers, was filled by C&F agents instead of the owners, violating rules.
The committee, led by Chattogram Additional Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, produced a 19-page report with 300 pages of attachments. It has given 20 recommendations -- such as amending several rules and regulations on depot operation, and monitoring and management -- to avoid the recurrence of such incidents.
Confirming the issuing of the letters, Mizanur told this correspondent that Cabinet Division forwarded the findings and recommendations to the departments concerned.
The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the probe report.
A GAP BETWEEN THE RULES
After investigating the blast incident, the report pointed to a serious gap between The Dangerous Cargoes Act 1953 and International Maritime Cargo Goods (IMDG) Code. It requested an amendment of the act.
According to the report, for importing chemical goods, exporters must take no-objection certificates (NOCs) from navy. An NOC had been issued for the hydrogen-peroxide containers by the Department of Shipping's inspection office and naval armament inspection officer, as per rules.
The probe committee, however, found that the office of Dangerous Cargo Inspection does not have its own workforce, rather the NOC's form, which was submitted for the chemical containers, was filled by C&F agents instead of the owners, violating a rule of IMDG Code.
Apart from that, there is no obligation for field visits by the office's scientific officer before issuing NOC.
The probe report also said The Dangerous Cargoes Act and "Standing Order for The Working of Vessels Carrying Dangerous Cargo in the Chittagong Port", which issues the NOC, were formed during the Pakistan period. Besides, Bangladesh is a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), so it has to properly follow the IMDG Code, which is frequently updated.
SAFETY-SECURITY QUESTIONS REMAIN
During the investigation, the committee found that NOCs for the BM depot have been issued by the fire service, the Department of Environment and the DG shipping office, but the presence of chemical containers was not mentioned.
According to the report, the DG Shipping office said the office issues International Shipping and Port-facility Security certificates considering only security (like proper surveillance) and not safety issues. But security and safety issues are related to each other.
The committee said the DG Shipping office should consider both security and safety issues together.
Meanwhile, the report said firefighters do not know storage and handling as well as the IMDG Code. It mentioned that the BM depot had scored only 11 out of 54 points in the fire safety evaluation, conducted by Bangladesh Investment and Development Authority (BIDA).
The committee proposed equipping the DGIO (DG Cargo Inspection Office) with a trained workforce and asked for field inspection of cargo before issuing NOCs.
Apart from that, exporters should appoint a trained workforce for packaging and transporting goods, include off-docks to Chittagong Port in regular meetings of the monitoring committee, and provide training to firefighters for following the IMDG Code.