Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005
Industry & Economy - Pollution
Handling of hazardous cargoes JNPT on collision course with pollution control board
Mumbai June 7
, IN its efforts to grab additional cargoes, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has invited the ire of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) by deciding to allow handling of hazardous chemicals such as ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol at its liquid cargo jetty.
Informed sources, however, said the MPCB is going to put its foot down, as it is firm on its stand that no hazardous chemicals could land at the port. Both MPCB and MCZMA are surprised as to how the port could permit import of the chemicals, especially as it did not have the necessary fire-fighting equipment to handle such cargoes.
"Handling of ethyl alcohol or methyl alcohol at the liquid cargo jetty at the JNPT could pose a serious threat to the installations in the vicinity," the sources said.
Despite directions from the MPCB, MCZMA and the Ministry of Environment that handling of hazardous chemicals cannot be permitted at the port, the JNPT has allowed an importer to handle ethyl alcohol at the jetty.
The JNPT's claim is that denatured ethyl alcohol does not come under the category of hazardous cargo under the IMDG Code of International Maritime Organisation.
"We do not find any risk in handling the cargo as far as the JNPT is concerned," the port said in a letter to the importer.
Sources said a vessel carrying 12,500 tonnes of denatured ethyl alcohol has berthed at the port. However, with the MPCB and other authorities including Customs officials, refusing to give permission for handling of the cargo, it is yet to be discharged from the ship.
The MPCB, in a letter to the JNPT Chairman dated April 2, had pointed out that it had issued show-cause notices to seven terminals located in the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) area in the vicinity of the port for storing hazardous chemicals. The board had made it clear that no hazardous chemicals (or class A chemicals) should be handled at the liquid cargo jetty.
In fact, the MPCB letter also pointed out that CRZ regulations allowed storage of only petroleum products and LNG as listed in the Annexure-III of the amended notification in the CRZ area.
"In spite of this, the JNPT allotted land and allowed setting up a number of storage terminals for storing and handling hazardous chemicals in addition to petroleum products in the CRZ area.
"Even the Ministry of Environment, vide its letter dated August 3, 2000, rejected the JNPT's request for grant of exemption from environmental clearance for storage of chemicals in these terminals," the letter said.
Out of the eight storage terminals in the JNPT area, only one terminal, which belongs to Indian Oil Tanking Ltd, is outside the CRZ area, with a few of the terminals not having basic environmental clearances.
"Thus as things stand today, the storage terminals in the CRZ area at the JNPT are allowed to store and handle only petroleum products," the MPCB letter pointed out.
The JNPT officials, however, claim that denatured ethyl alcohol has a flash point of 27 deg C and, hence, "does not come under the category of class `A' chemicals.
An estimated quantity of 1.5 lakh tonnes of ethyl alcohol lands annually at the neighbouring Mumbai port, which has permission to handle this cargo.
Another 2 lakh tonnes of the cargo gets diverted to the Kandla port annually due to lack of capacity at Mumbai port apparently the JNPT is looking to get a scoop of this cargo.
With the MPCB and other authorities likely to put more pressure on the JNPT to desist from handing such cargoes, the port will not find it easy to allow storage terminal owners to bring the cargoes into the port.
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