Millions of ringgit in storage and disposal costs are lost due to irresponsible parties making Malaysia their dumping ground for unwanted waste.
Over the years, hundreds of containers filled with plastic wastes and scrap tyres – some of which are contaminated – have been shipped here and left abandoned at Port Klang.
Port Klang Authority (PKA) general manager Capt K. Subramaniam told The Star that at the height of the problem, the port had almost 800 containers of such waste.
“But we have managed to clear some of them over the years. Currently, we still have 280 containers in the Northport and Westport, which are both our terminals,” he said.
The abandoned cargoes, said Subramaniam, are kept for a maximum of four months or until they are cleared by the consignees.
This, however, results in storage costs that have to be absorbed by PKA, amounting to between RM20mil and RM25mil, he added.
Subramaniam said some of the plastic wastes were contaminated with chemicals and therefore a threat to the environment if left for too long.
“The port authorities have to ensure that the containers are sealed properly and kept in a safe place.
“We need to monitor their conditions as well to ensure they don’t pose any hazard to the environment.
“All these additional costs are eventually absorbed by the ports and terminals without a way to recover,” said Subramaniam.
He said some of the wastes were brought in for recycling by genuine shippers but ended up being abandoned due to unpaid freight charges by local consignees.
“Due to incomplete documents or delay in obtaining documentation of cargo ownership, the shippers are unable to prove that they are the owners of the cargo, which are eventually abandoned,” he said.
Subramaniam said failure by shipping lines and consignees to obtain import permits issued by the Department of Environment (DoE) and the National Solid Waste Management Department (JPSPN) is also a reason as to why some of the cargoes were not cleared.
“These two agencies are very strict and will only issue permits based on the law, therefore there are chances that the receivers of the cargo may never get their permits.
“Some have committed to the importation before obtaining the permits. The law says you need to have the permit upfront and only then can you finalise the consignment but this is not followed,” he said.
Subramaniam said some shipping lines do not check if the consignees have the necessary permits prior to accepting the freight, assuming that all paperwork is done.
Cargoes that have not been cleared after four months will be disposed, which can cost PKA between RM5,000 and RM12,000 per container, he said.
However, he said there are some shippers in Malaysia who will pay for the disposal to get their containers back and also for the sake of their company image.
Subramaniam said consignees and shipping lines need to be on the ball and should avoid using ignorance as an excuse.
“The laws are very clear but some of them choose to ignore them. I think enforcement is the answer to this,” he said.
The PKA, said Subramaniam, has also taken proactive measures by proposing to agencies to come up with stricter regulations and penalties to put an end to the problem.
“Right now, the shippers might get away with no penalty as there is no such regulations, so we have highlighted this matter to the DoE and JPSPN. This is to teach the consignees or shippers to be more careful. But this will take time,” he added.