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New Delhi, Dec. 27

Handling hazardous cargo during daytime only and ensuring such cargo is not kept inside a port, are some of the steps suggested by the Shipping Ministry committee set up to look into the leakage of chlorine gas.

Following the incidenct of chlorine gas leak at Mumbai Port Trust on July 14, which left many injured and also claimed lives, a committee was set up by the Government under the Chairmanship of Joint Secretary (Ports) to inquire the cause and fix responsibility.

The committee has suggested taking punitive action against the company that owned the cargo and the shipper. “Suitable action, including the FIR (first information report), (should) be lodged against Agro Gases and James Mackintosh under the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and relevant provisions of various Acts for criminal negligence, thereby, endangering the lives of general public; the firm should be denied import/export facilities for next five years, i.e., till 2016,” according to an official statement. “Direct delivery of dangerous/hazardous cargo is to be resorted to, rather than storage of such cargo within port premises. All import cargo should be taken from the ship's hook under custom escort directly to the importer's bonded warehouse. “In case of export cargo, all custom formalities need to be carried out by the exporter while such hazardous cargo may be transported when the ship is at the berth and loaded directly on to the vessel just prior to sailing,” the committee said.

It has also suggested steps that should be taken if the hazardous cargo is not cleared and is lying at the port. All the major ports have been asked to review their procedures and storage conditions for hazardous materials.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 28, 2010)
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