NEW DELHI

Suspected containers isolated

NEW DELHI, OCT. 11. The authorities at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) here in Tughlakabad today isolated 46 scrap containers, suspected to be carrying explosives, and sought the assistance of the Delhi police to scan the "dangerous'' scrap. These containers are presently stationed in an isolated area on the ICD premises.

It is learnt that after the recovery of shells and bombs from scrap consignments sent from Bundar Abbas port of Iran by Luck Metals of Dubai, the ICD authorities identified five more containers imported from the same company and shifted them to an isolated place. The consignments had originated from Jabel Ali and Adis Ababa ports and were to be sent to Young Steel, RCI Industries Limited and Khatuji Shyam Industries in Delhi and Rajasthan.

Another 41 containers of scrap meant for Bhushan Steel and Strips, in whose Ghaziabad unit a huge explosion had claimed 10 lives this past month, have also been segregated from other containers suspecting the presence of explosives in them. The consignments were imported from Kentz General of Kuwait and Indica Global Limited of Dubai from Dubai and Kuwait ports.

While a list of these containers has been sent to the Delhi police for their examination by bomb disposal squads, the ICD officials informed that over 1,200 more heavy metal scrap containers were still lying in their custody and they were awaiting a direction from the superiors in this regard before giving clearance.

The latest Minister of Commerce notification allowing import of loose non-compact scrap through either major gateway ports or ICD here in Delhi has also put the officials in a fix as they feel they do not have the requisite expertise to screen huge amounts of loose heavy metal scrap. As per the notification, from now onwards, small gateway ports and depots will be allowed to clear only shredded and compacted scrap, whereas loose and non-compact scrap can be imported only after clearance by major ports -- Kandla, Nava Shiva, Mumbai port, Goa, Tuticorin, Kochin, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, Kolkata and Haldia ports, -- and the ICD at Tughlakabad, which has been earmarked as the only Inland depot across the country for clearing such consignments.

In this regard, a senior official expressed apprehensions about presence of radioactive substance in the scrap being imported from West Asia. In an incident reported four months ago from the Iraq-Jordan border, the police there impounded a scrap consignment being taken to Jordan in which they found highly enriched uranium. "Most of the scrap imported here are suspected to be from Iraq," he added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance today said it had sought the assistance of experts for handling of explosives and radioactive materials, as the Customs officials had neither the expertise nor proper equipment to handle such materials. The Ministry also felt that only compacted and shredded metal scraps should be allowed and non-compact loose metallic scrap should not be allowed through any major port or ICD, as it will not be possible for Customs officials to detect explosives in heavy consignments of metallic scrap.

In another development, the ICD authorities today decided to do away with the policy of giving clearance to consignments after scanning of just one-fourth of their contents. They are in the process of replacing that rule with a new one soon.

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