Report: Fuel Smuggling Caused Shipbreaking Blast
An official inquiry into the explosion on the scrapped FPSO Aces confirmed that the massive blast was caused by hundreds of thousands of gallons of petroleum products on board.
The inquiry (as reported by local media) said that about 375,000 gallons of fuel and 425,000 gallons of lubricants were on board the vessel.
Aces had been beached at the shipbreaking yards in Gadani, Pakistan. It is believed that sparks from cutting (or the explosion of a cutting gas tank) ignited the petroleum on board; the blast that followed tore apart her decks, killing at least two dozen and injuring 58 more.
The known death toll has risen to 28 since the blast, as many of the injured died of their wounds in the days and weeks after. The exact numbers of the dead may never be known, as the yard did not keep written records of its workers. Pakistani unions estimate that there are at least ten workers still missing, based on inquiries from the men’s families.
The provincial government has arranged for a $22,000 payment for families of the deceased, plus $1,500 for each of the injured.
Pakistani officials have acknowleged that beaching is often used as an opportunity for smuggling petroleum products into the country. The ministry of shipping's report called for an investigation into customs practices: the shipbreaking contractor had not obtained customs clearance before bringing the Aces onto the beach.
Kamal Siddiqi, former editor of Pakistan's Express Tribune, alleges that high federal duties on imported ships have driven many Gadani shipbreaking firms out of business, and that those remaining are forced to smuggle fuel as a way to supplement their income.
The Minister for Ports and Shipping, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, said Friday that the government and the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan would draft new laws on shipbreaking. He added that the government was also looking to address the lack of emergency facilities at Gadani. Eyewitness reports from the day of the blast suggested that there were not enough ambulances to carry the wounded away for treatment.