The larger community ends up paying the price as businesses continue to abuse legal loopholes and bring banned industrial waste into the country, officials say.
A VnMedia report said last week that this practice was convenient for industrialised countries struggling with the high cost of treating and disposing their industrial waste, which includes toxic chemicals.
It said local businesses were taking undue advantage of the Government allowing the import of waste for domestic production purposes. They were bringing in high-risk waste instead, the report said.
It also said that the businesses were getting away with it by using familiar, time-tested tactics of disowning their cargo or paying fines to re-export it.
Now, the industrial waste is mounting at the ports in Hai Phong City. There are up to 5,000 containers at the ports that no one wants to claim after the deadline for importers to come for procedural clearance has passed.
The Hai Phong Customs Department has said that of the 5,000, it has opened and checked 1,363 containers. It found 104 containing plastic waste, used computers and electronic parts; 1085 had used rubber tubes; 164 were filled with used clothes.
The department is yet to open the remaining containers.
“For the 1,363 containers that have been inspected, the department will have to get together representatives of the health, environment, judicial and other concerned sectors and decide what to do with it,” said Pham Viet Chuyen, head of the department’s goods inspection team, told Viet Nam News.
The Hai Phong Police’s Environmental Crimes Division recently examined five containers in collaboration with Hai Phong Customs Department’s Customs Control Team. According to their bills of lading, these contain used electronics items shipped from Hong Kong to Hai Phong.
However, inspections found that the containers held 120 tonnes of banned goods, including 50 tonnes of hazardous chipboards as electronic parts. This is a violation of the BASEL Convention and provisions of Article 185 of the Criminal Code.
Only 70 tonnes, including used laptops, CPUs, computer screens and servers of all types were legally importable goods.
In July 2014, the city’s environmental crime police and the municipal police discovered 340 tonnes of used electronic parts and equipment stored in the warehouse and workshop of Mai Huong Co., Ltd.
Further checks found three containers of hazardous waste, and only two of the 20 containers held the declared item – waste steel. The other 18 had other goods including electronic parts and chipboards.
“The import of waste has not stopped, it is actually increasing,” Do Van Diep from Hai Phong Police Department told VnMedia.
According to Diep, on the customs declaration, it is registered as legitimate goods but in fact, the containers’ content is waste. When discovered, the domestic enterprises that have their names on invoices refuse to claim the goods, saying either that the goods are not what they ordered or that it must have been sent to the wrong address.
Pham Manh Tu, the head of Hai Phong Customs Department’s Customs Inspection Team, had more information on tricks used by the importers.
He said for the goods that have to go through customs clearance, the department would inspect customs declarations and attached documents identifying the goods. The import of goods into the port without a customs declaration can only be seen as a trick to smuggle banned goods into the country.
According to Tu, the most popular way foreign exporters use to ship their goods to Viet Nam is through liners. When the vessel reaches the port, the importers are only required to present transportation documents for unloading.
After this, the goods can lie there for 90 days before the importer goes through customs procedures to clear and claim them. Until the importer comes and declares the goods, the customs will remain in the dark.
“After 90 days, the importer named in the shipment invoice is summoned. However, when violations are discovered, they give the same answers: they do not know who the goods belong to, they are not concerned or they did not sign the contract with the foreign companies that delivered the goods,” he said.