Waste imported to Sri Lanka illegally, violating Basel convention: Finance Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – About 3,000 tonnes of waste had been imported to Sri Lanka illegally and a part of it had been cleared by Hayleys Free Zone, an entrepot operator, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told parliament.

A total of 241 containers of waste had been imported to Sri Lanka. Of that 111 containers were still in the port. In the shipping documents ETL Colombo (Pvt) Ltd was listed as importer and Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation (Pvt) Ltd as ‘notified party’.

On May 21, the Director General of Customs had ordered a probe on 65 containers lying at China International Container Terminals.

They were found to have ‘mixed waste’ which had been imported to the country without Central Environmental Authority clearance, contravening the Basel Convention.

Hayleys Free Zone had cleared 130 containers which contained used mattresses. Hayleys Free Zone had re-exported 15 containers to India and 02 to Dubai.

According to shipping documents 2,964 tonnes of waste were in the containers. So far 283,405 kilograms of material had been re-exported without any processing and 102,405 kilograms hd been exported after processing.

Hayleys Free Zone had been asked by customs to re-export the containers in their premises.

The parties identified as the importer and shipping agent had been asked to re-export the 111 containers lying in the port.

But a court order had been issued to hold the containers following case filed by a third party. Minister Samaraweera said following a Customs inquiry all parties will be dealt with under the provisions of the Customs ordinance.

Samaraweera said if necessary the free zone law could be strengthened but not abolish the entrepot law.

He said Customs officials had the right to enter any free zone premises.

Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment said that the entrepot rules did not allow waste processing or the import of waste without approval.

Meanwhile ETL Lanka had said that it was only the freight forwarder and not the importer and Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation (Pvt) Ltd was the actual importer.

Hayleys Free Zone officials had told the media that Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation (Pvt) Ltd had got into financial trouble. (Colombo/July26/2019)