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A port city rising to environmental challenges

JEAN LAMBERT visits the main Bangladeshi port of Chittagong

SOME travelling was required yesterday for a visit to Chittagong, Bangladesh’s main sea port.

The city itself faces the Bay of Bengal which offered beautiful, bright and clear views of the sea — sunglasses very definitely a blessed necessity today.

This is a major port, and so we met representatives from the Port Authority who explained some of the challenges they face with ongoing expansion, and of course the environmental impact of this.

Like many ports it is incredibly active and the logistics are staggering.

Most goods are moved inland by river after containers are unloaded as road infrastructure here is very poor — so river transportation can be quicker and more effective.

Offshore there are huge deposits of minerals and hydrocarbons in the bay which many want to develop, but there are also plans to develop fisheries.

The Shipbreakers Association also pointed out to us that recent changes in EU regulations on ship recycling was a concern because it could mean a ban on EU ships being sent to Bangladesh for recycling.

Now, this doesn’t mean a shortage of ships for Bangladesh, not at all — a supply would still arrive from elsewhere — but it would mean the absence of pressure from EU standards on environment, safety and labour a key driver in making ship recycling yards as sustainable as possible.

On this issue of ship recycling (or breaking), the crux is that the EU regulation — putting the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention into law, but going further — is designed to make sure that ships are not beached for the purpose of dismantling but are dealt with in purpose-built facilities.

However the Hong Kong Convention does actually allow beaching. We need to keep fighting bad practice and draw up better legislation.

 

Following this, I paid a site visit to Western Marine Shipyard Ltd. Shipbuilding is an up-and-coming sector, and this particular shipyard is one of the most advanced in terms of environmental and safety standards, and this company exports to the EU.

It has a corporate social responsibility project which includes a health centre for the workers and their families and also a skills training centre.

However there is a lot of work still to be done to bring the many other yards up to higher standards and this is somewhere where the EU is co-operating with Bangladesh.

 

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, is in Bangladesh this week as chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with south Asia.

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