NGO claims blast killed yard worker during FPSO recycling in Alang, India

Photo: NGO Shipbreaking Platform

A worker lost his life while scrapping BW Offshore’s Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) unit BW Cidade de Sao Vicente at an Indian beaching yard earlier this month, NGO Shipbreaking Platform said in a statement on its website on Wednesday, April 27.

According to local sources, a nitrogen tank removed from the vessel violently exploded and killed the worker on the spot on April 21.

BW Offshore sold the FPSO to Priya Blue Industries shipbreaking yard in Alang, India, in February of this year after a cold lay-up in Oman and unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a new contract in Brazil, where the unit operated for 11 years under charter for Petrobras.

Despite having been offered a more sustainable solution for the recycling of the vessel when it was in the Middle East by new-comers Elegant Exit Company at the Bahrain-based Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY) dry-dock and SULB steel production facility, BW Offshore decided to sell the FPSO to the Indian beaching yard for a supposedly higher price. Assisted by Arctic Shipbrokers, Grieg Green and Priya Blue’s cash buyer Best Oasis, the deal was branded as a green sale.

The FPSO changed its name to Vice and its flag to Saint Kitts and Nevis before it was ramped up on the Alang tidal mudflat.

Priya Blue Industries was amongst the first yards in India to obtain a so-called “Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention” from Japan’s ClassNK, and is also a member of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative since 2018.

However, recent audit reports by the European Commission have highlighted a series of structural deficiencies at the Alang shipbreaking yards, including Priya Blue Industries, related to the lack of infrastructure to contain pollutants in the primary cutting area, the non-existence of capacity to handle several hazardous wastes originating from ships downstream, the absence of medical facilities and breaches of labour laws.

In 2019, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform documented another fatal accident at Priya Blue Industries, and Dutch investigative program Zembla uncovered that same year the shocking conditions under which the scrapping of the mercury-laden Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker Yetagun took place in another site owned by Priya Blue.

Dutch company SBM Offshore, owner of Yetagun, radically changed its recycling policy after the revelations of Zembla by banning the use of beaching yards and only allowing the scrapping of its offshore assets at yards that use a dry-dock or the landing on concrete slope with drainage system.

Following the report by NGO Shipbreaking Platform, BW Offshore issued a statement saying that the accident was unrelated to the ongoing recycling of the company’s former FPSOs at the same yard in India.

BW Offshore added that its representatives at the yard did not witness the event. The representatives are in close contact with the yard about the ongoing investigation and have offered their assistance.

The company said further questions about the accident should be directed to the management of Priya Blue Industries.

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