Sunday, April 21, 2024

Baltimore bridge crash: Sri Lanka unaware of ship carrying toxic wastes from US, say officials

Baltimore bridge crash

COLOMBO, APRIL 2: Sri Lanka is not yet aware of the nature of hazardous materials on the cargo vessel that collided with a key Baltimore bridge last week as it was supposed to declare the contents of containers only 72 hours before the time of arrival into the Colombo Port, officials here said.
The Singapore-flagged container ship vessel Dali, which was mainly manned by an Indian crew, collided with the 2.6-km-long 4-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Patapsco River in Baltimore in the early hours of March 26. The 984-foot cargo ship was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The ship was carrying 764 tonnes of hazardous materials as reported by the US media.
According to the information available, there are 57 containers with such toxic materials that can be categorised 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 ‘analysing the ship’s manifest to determine what was onboard’ in its other 4,644 containers, Daily Mirror Online quoted the official as saying.
“Prior to Baltimore, 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 official said.
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 at 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 transhipment 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.
He added that toxic substances are imported as raw materials and guidelines are applied.
The collapse of the bridge has effectively shut down operations at Baltimore’s port, affecting about 8,000 jobs and about USD 2 million in daily wages for those workers, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week. (PTI)