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Shipbreaking hazards & precautions

January 11, 2017

APROPOS your report ‘Four killed during LPG shipbreaking in Gadani’(Jan 11). Another 22 were injured in LPG blasts at a multinational fast food outlet in Lahore on Dec 28 while 19 people were killed at the shipbreaking yard in Gadani on Nov 26. In 1984 some 600 people were killed by LPG storage facility fire in San Juanico, Brazil.

Besides the lack of safety precautions taken by shipbreakers and their illiterate workforce, gas shortages in Pakistan will continue to drive people to use LPG which is readily easily across Pakistan. While LPG can operate cars, ovens, geysers and other appliances, it is unlike natural gas and has to be treated with respect.

Natural gas leakages are less hazardous as their vapours are lighter than air and rise up quickly but LPG vapours are heavy and ground-hugging. They ride over water in drain channels and travel with the flow. It has a history of catching fire hundreds of metres away from the source of leakage. The leaking LPG gas can sit in low-lying areas and can catch fire months after the leak. Some shipbreakers use LPG gas in place of acetylene gas due to its cost benefit without realising the associated hazards. Only Safety equipment and proper training can avoid LPG-related incidents.

The SSGC and SNGPL should highlight hazards of natural gas leakages in newspapers and TV channels to enable LPG shipbreakers and producers to follow suit. Shipbreakers should also educate their workers and take precautions while handling LPG vessels in their yards.

S. Nayyar Iqbal Raza

Karachi

Published in Dawn January 11th, 2017