Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner Manish Kumar Sinha cancelled the No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued to a private shipping firm that has been storing vast quantities of ammonium nitrate at its warehouse in Mindi in Vizag district. The district authorities had inspected the storehouses of the shipping firm earlier this month and soon issued a show-cause notice on charges of non-compliance of rules under the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012. With the firm reportedly failing to provide a satisfactory explanation in its reply to the notice, the NOC has been cancelled. The move comes in wake of the massive explosion of tonnes of ammonium nitrate in the Lebanese capital of Beirut in August this year.
Reportedly, the alleged violations by the private shipping firm include the construction of the storehouses with different dimensions without keeping safety distance as directed by the guidelines and the site plan. As per Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, 6 (2)(a), the ammonium nitrate storehouse shall not be located in populated areas. The Rules also state that for the safety of a quantity exceeding 30 MT, a safety distance of 9 meters from the storehouse to the compound and 90 meters from any protected works needs to be maintained. Reports claim that the police found the firm violating the norm for safety distance.
The massive explosion in Beirut killed hundreds of citizens and left thousands injured. The destruction not only caused property damage on a large scale but also left many homeless. Even as the Lebanese capital continues to reel from the horrors of the tragedy, questions have been raised on the safety of storing ammonium nitrate with several countries around the world attempting to crack down on hazardous reserves of the harmful substance.
It may be noted that in August, following the explosion in Beirut, a specially formed inspection team revealed that the ammonium nitrate reserves in Visakhapatnam accounted for 18,500 MT. While the team concluded that there is no threat to Visakhapatnam, the disaster department is likely to carry further inspections and take the necessary action in view of public safety.
On the other hand, even as the NOC of the shipping firm in Vizag has been cancelled for violating the ammonium nitrate safety norms, another cargo ship, carrying the chemical substance, is expected to reach the city in a few days. With two ships already waiting in the waters to unload several metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate, it is to be seen if the authorities grant permission for the same.