After Malaysia’s ban, HK orders shipping firm to return toxic waste to Romania
File photo of the South China Sea, July 27, 2014. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 – Hong Kong has ordered a shipping company to return its cargo of suspected toxic waste back to Romania, after the firm’s attempt to unload it in Malaysia failed. Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department said it had, at 9pm on November 3, instructed the shipping company to ship 123 shipping containers of the suspected toxic waste back to Romania, Malaysian daily Oriental Daily reported yesterday. The ship was previously reported to have hatched a scheme to divide this batch of over 2,723 tonnes of toxic mining waste to be carried on different cargo vessels to Malaysia for illegal dumping, after its months-long attempt to unload its cargo at various ports failed repeatedly.
Malaysia’s Department of Environment (DOE) had earlier this week said one of the vessels carrying eight containers or 177.12 tonnes of mining waste- – believed to contain the toxins arsenic and cadmium – was slated to arrive at Port Klang on October 29 but had immediately been ordered the next day to turn back to its last port of call, Hong Kong. The DOE had also confirmed that it had told the shipping firm that the latter’s second vessel due to arrive on November 4 will also not be allowed to unload 27 containers of suspected toxic waste and would also be ordered to head back to Hong Kong. According to Oriental Daily’s report yesterday, the first ship containing the 177 tonnes of suspected toxic waste left Malaysia on October 30 itself and was due to arrive in Hong Kong at 6pm on November 5.
Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department reportedly said that Malaysia had ordered eight containers to be sent back to Hong Kong, while the remaining 115 containers were still in Hong Kong. The department said it had asked the shipping firm to return all these shipping containers back to the exporting country Romania, in order to avert the possibility of the containers’ contents from being dumped in Hong Kong’s landfill sites, Oriental Daily reported. The department said it had in September initiated investigations after receiving tip-offs and discovered that a cargo of 123 containers reportedly containing “Copper Matte” was exported from Romania and would pass by China to reach Hong Kong before arrangements to transfer them elsewhere.
“The Environmental Protection Department had, on October 3 and October 26, taken samples and tested 10 of the containers. The Health Department responded to the Environmental Protection Department’s request to help test the radiation levels. The results showed that the radiation levels are normal.
“Inside the containers are many fibrous sacks, which contained dry, odourless, rock-like solid substances. The Environmental Protection Department’s test results show that those substance’s composition matches with the reports of Copper Matte type of minerals, mainly formed of lead, copper, zinc and iron,” the department was quoted saying in Oriental Daily’s report dated yesterday. Oriental Daily said the waste transfer control policies for China and Hong Kong requires both to give advance notice when transferring harmful waste.
But Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department had verified with China’s Environmental Protection Ministry that there was no such case requiring the reporting of 123 containers of harmful waste, while the customs department had also reportedly not received alerts that Chinese authorities had refused entry for the shipping containers. The ship, believed to have left Romania with the 2,723 tonnes of suspected toxic waste in December 2015, had saw its plans repeatedly thwarted over many months. Along the way, it had reportedly reached Shanghai’s port but was disallowed from unloading its cargo after spot checks and was ordered to leave after two months, before stopping by at Hong Kong for one month, before heading for Macao where it was told to return to Hong Kong, and finally attempting to dump its cargo in Malaysia.
The successful bid by the Malaysian government to stop the unloading of the suspected toxic cargo at Port Klang and illegal dumping here was aided by Oriental Daily, which had conducted its own investigation and passed on a tip-off from Hong Kong.