The Probo Koala vessel which spread death and panic in Abidjan during the summer of 2006 has just been sold by her last owner to a demolisher in Bangladesh for $ 7.7 million. Currently off the coast of China, she should be beached in Chittagong under the name of Gulf Jash within the next few days. The Greek owner had in fact sold the Probo Koala to Gulf Navigation based in Dubai.
Built in 1989, at Korean Shipbuilding & Engineering shipyards, the Probo Koala was used by the multinational company Trafigura to produce low-grade gasoline from highly sulphurised oil off the coast of Gibraltar and Malta. The toxic residue produced by these onboard refinery operations was unloaded in August 2006 at the Abidjan port. Scattered around the Ivory Coast economic capital, the residue containing hydrogen sulphide and mercaptans caused the death of 17 people and intoxicated over one hundred thousand others, according to the official figures.
Before heading for Africa, Trafigura had attempted to offload the residue onboard the Probo Koala at the port of Amsterdam and made a second European stop at Paldiski. The responsibility of the Netherlands and Estonia in the Abidjan disaster has never been recognised, the European Commission called upon by Robin des Bois and Sherpa refused to pursue the two countries. To date there remains 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of waste on the Ivory Coast stored outdoors in weather beaten bags, protected from human contact by broken down fences. Robin des Bois has once again called on the European Environment Commissioner in February 2011 requesting that the remaining waste be returned to Europe in compliance with the October 2006 European Parliament Resolution.
The Probo Koala is the symbol of exporting dangerous waste to countries that do not have the necessary means to treat them. Faithful to her bad reputation the Probo Koala will be beached on the mud of the marine cemetery at Chittagong. For the last time she will expose workers to health and safety risks, that is if the Bangladesh authorities, informed of her imminent arrival by Robin des Bois, authorise her wrecking.
The shocking odyssey of the Probo Koala has been told in The shameful Ship published by Stock, co-written by Charlotte Nithart, manager of Robin des Bois, and Bernard Dussol, reporter with the co-operation of Jacky Bonnemains. (Available in French only).
Robin des Bois will publish Thursday May 19th number 23 of the “Ship-breaking.Com” quarterly information and analysis bulletin on end-of-life ships. (English version to follow) .