Chattogram Customs House has identified 60 lots of hazardous goods that have been piled up at P Shed, a designated place for storing such types of goods at Chattogram Port, for the last 20 years.
Chemists said there are some products in the list of hazardous products in the shed which have not been released since 2000. If the products explode, it could be a repeat of Lebanon's Beirut incident.
The list of hazardous goods kept in P-shed of the port shows that 60 lots of goods have been piled up there for 20 years from 2000 to 2020. The list of products includes expired hydrochloride, hydrogen peroxide, hazardous substance solid, hazardous material, chemical processing material, unsafe environment and various life-threatening products.
On August 9, Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) formed a six-member probe committee led by M Safiul Bari, a member of the port (Harbor and Marine), on this issue.
The committee was directed to submit its report to the chairman of Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) within the next seven working days.
The most risky products include Hazardous Substance Solid, Hydrogen Peroxide, Blankkit, Dithonites and sulphoxylate of solutions, Hydrochloride, Nitro Glue Solutions, Various Chemicals, Caustic Soda, Pharmaceutical Material, Beverage Concentrate and Hand Sanitiser.
Chattogram Customs House has not been able to make an inventory of 30 lots of these products yet.
Dr Muhammad Edris Ali, Professor of Chemistry at Haji Muhammad Mohsin College, Chattogram, told The Business Standard that Hazardous Substance Solid is very dangerous for fire; hydrogen peroxide is combustible, corrosive and harmful to the body. An explosion will occur if water is mixed with hydrochloride.
There is no chance of storing any kind of chemical and dangerous product for a long time. These hazardous products react differently at different times, at different temperatures, he added.
Prof Edris Ali said it is very important to provide a specialised area, floor or environment for storage of these products. When preserved for a long time, they become destructive to the environment, atmosphere, water, air, above all human life.
Regarding the storage of hazardous products, chemists said nitrate compounds are explosive. They explode due to excessive heat and/or shaking. The storage room should have an arrangement of light and air and it must have a ventilator and AC.
Organic, inorganic, exclusive, carcinogenic and combustible chemicals should be kept separately. Expired chemicals should be disposed of according to the chemical disposal system, they added.
The chemists also said an inventory is a must for chemicals. That means the list of places where the chemicals were kept should have an entry in the computer or notebook. It must be arranged in alphabetical order, with its expiration date, quantity, date of preservation and properties. The list should be hung in the store room.
The store room should be monitored every day and adequate humidifier, fire extinguisher, AC, fan, and lab safety equipment should be available. They said that one should only enter the store room after wearing a mask, apron, goggles and gloves.
M Safiul Bari, a member (Harbor and Marine) of CPA and convener of the committee formed to identify the location of the chemical and hazardous products, said during an inspection, they found 23 types of products stored in the P-shed of the port. These were sent to the chemical laboratory of Chattogram Customs House for testing.
"Of these, we got a report of seven items such as sodium carbonate and food flavors."
Regarding the tracing of 60 lots of hazardous products including Hazardous Substance Solid, he said the customs authorities would be able to reveal the details of the goods kept in the port.
"Port authorities are only responsible for storing goods while Customs is responsible for their release and auction."
Chattogram Customs House chemical examiner Abdul Hannan said Chattogram Port has sent seven such samples of goods kept in P Shed for testing. Samples are being sent by Customs for testing.