Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Is TRAFIGURA, the company that dumped 500 tons of toxic waste in Abidjan doing business with The Gambia?

On the 19th of August 2006, an Anglo Dutch company that operated the cargo ship the "Probo Koala" discharged 500 tons equivalent to 20 shipping containers of toxic waste in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

The hazardous substance which belonged to Trafigura was discharged at the Abidjan port and later dumped at 18 sites around the city.  It is reported that many other possible remain unknown to date, twelve years after the fact. 

Trafigura is reportedly bidding to supply 470 metric ton of light fuel to Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC).  The bidding was conducted last November and it is unclear whether the company won the contract or not.  What is of concern to us, to now, is the record of the company as it relates to its toxic waste disposal record which can pose a grave danger to vulnerable countries like The Gambia.

Before finally finding a willing partner in a local company to dispose the waste at a coat of $17,000, a Dutch waste disposal company offered to properly dispose of it for a little over $ 600,000.  Of course, the cost of disposal attracted Trafigura to dispose of it in Abidjan with devastating effect that the city is still suffering from it.

Amnesty International reported that Trafigura tried and failed to get rid of the waste in five countries: Malta, Italy, Gibraltar,  The Netherlands and Nigeria.  The company's attempt to dispose of it in The Netherlands failed when residents complained of overwhelming smell and experienced nausea, dizziness and headache after some of the waste was unloaded.

The toxic waste is produced on board the ship "Probo Koala" as a by-product of refining a dirty petroleum product called "coker naphtha" too mix with gasoline to sell it on as petrol.
According to official estimates, 15 people died, 69 victims were hospitalized and over 108,000 others sought medical treatment after the so called "Probo Koala incident in Abidjan."   Following the publication of the long awaited United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report about the incident, Amnesty International said last January that victims are still in the dark about the long-term impacts their health.
Dried toxic waste in Abidjan 
While it is estimated that 63% of registered victims received some form of compensation under a February 2007 settlement agreement between Trafigura and the Ivorian government. it is feared that a majority of victims are still without compensation.  Victims' associations appear not to have been consulted before the agreement was signed.  Another 30,000 victims were due for compensation following a September 2009 civil claim against Trafigura in the UK.  The company is registered in the UK and the Netherlands.

The authorities in Banjul must be extra vigilant against polluters of our waterways and our environment, generally.  Companies like Trafigura with a record of disposing toxic waste that threatens the lives of  defenseless and unsuspecting African populations must be monitored closely so as to protect our local population against polluters.