Report: Second explosion in one year on Aces FPSO in Pakistan

A fire broke out this week aboard the partially scrapped ACES FPSO at a shipbreaking plot in Gadani Pakistan.

This is according to the Shipbreaking Platform NGO, which on Thursday said that luckily no workers got caught in the flames of the fire that broke out aboard the Aces on Wednesday.

However, the Shipbreaking Platform has pointed out that this is the second major accident at the shipbreaking spot involving the same vessel in just over a year, slamming the Pakistani authorities for not learning from previous tragedies.


Worst shipbreaking accident ever


On November 1, 2016, an explosion that hit the ACES killed 31 workers and injured at least 58 more, according to the NGO, which has dubbed the 2016 accident as “the worst tragedy in shipbreaking history.”

The vessel, previously known as Federal I FPSO, was super tanker Mobil Flinders built for Exxon Mobil in 1982, and was converted to a Floating Storage and Offloading unit in 2007.

In August 2016, she was sold for demolition. She left Indonesia under tow flying the Indonesian flag and arrived at Gadani shipbreaking yards on October 18. It was renamed Aces and deflagged to Djibouti.  

Not long after, a major blast caused by several gas cylinder explosions onboard the FPSO, killing and injuring dozens of workers.


Second accident in one year


According to the NGO, since the 2016 accident, the vessel had been left untouched for a year, when the Pakistani Department of Environment last week gave approval for the dismantling work to continue.


“Shockingly, on the very first day that the breaking commenced, a massive fire broke out again as the oil residues inside the tanker had not been removed. While there have been no reported fatalities or injuries as a result of the fire, yesterday’s event goes far in demonstrating the Pakistani Government’s negligent attitude towards workers’ rights and safety, as well as enforcing proper environmental standards,” Shipbreaking Platform said on Thursday.


“Clearly, no lessons have been learnt from the series of tragedies that have hit Gadani in the last year”, says Dr Muhammad Irfan Khan, member of the NGO Shipbeaking Platform’s Board. “More investments are sorely needed to ensure institutional capacity build-up. For the industry to be allowed to continue operating in Pakistan, authorities need to guarantee the protection of shipbreaking workers and the enforcement of existing environmental regulations”, he adds.


Violent legacy continues


Evidently, the NGO said, by authorizing the breaking of the ACES to commence again, without having even ensured that the tanks were cleaned, Pakistani authorities blatantly ignore workers’ calls as yards are allowed to return to business as usual and perpetuate the industry’s violent legacy.

The appalling working conditions at Gadani are well-known, yet European ships are still being sold to Pakistan for breaking. In the third quarter of 2017 alone, seven ships – five German, one Greek, and one Norwegian – were sold to the Gadani beach for breaking, the NGO said.

“Unless the yards are moved to industrial platforms away from the tidal beach where the safety of workers and the containment of pollutants can be ensured, we do not recommend the breaking of ships in Pakistan”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “How many more accidents and deaths at the Gadani beach is the global shipping industry ready to accept?,” she adds.



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