Wednesday, 4 September 2013 - 05:33
The Bad Image of the Chemical Industry
Wilma Mansveld, State Secretary of Infrastructure and Environment, wants to be able to intervene if chemical companies make such a mess, that the safety of people or the environment is at risk. To do this, she has to change the law, she wrote on Tuesday to the House. Mansveld reacting to a recommendation of the Safety Investigation Board (OVV), which previously drafted a report about the poor safety situation at tank storage company Odfjell in the port of Rotterdam . The intervention by the State Secretary should be a last resort if things really go wrong at a company. Intervention is not necessary if regulators do their job well, says Mansveld. The government is confident that the regulators will do their job well in the future, writes the State Secretary. Mansveld further writes that business initiatives should be taken to improve safety. The way companies and staff think about safety, must be put under the microscope. The responsibility for safety lies primarily with the companies themselves, the government thinks. The State Secretary will work together with the provinces, municipalities, Justice and inspections on improvements and these will be advised in a multi-annual program. "All parties involved in this important sector must take responsibility and work together to strengthen the safety," said Mansveld . House critical about letter Mansveld The plans of the government to improve the safety situation at chemical companies are critically received by the House on Tuesday. Although most parties are happy that the problems are on the focus of the ministers concerned, many MPs see also deficiencies in the package. VVD MP Remco Dijkstra states that no new rules are needed, but that the current rules should be implemented. He would like to see that the licenses will be suspended or companies . can be temporarily closed down, as an ultimate sanction," said Dijkstra, who further stresses strict enforcement and proper supervision. Coalition partner Marith Rebel of the Labour Party believes that monitoring must be improved for the largest and most dangerous companies, under the responsibility of a good and integrated inspection. Also, the fines can be raised and the cost of inspections should be recovered from the offenders." Opposition party GroenLinks supports the issue. "For three transgressions, such a company should be closed," said MP Liesbeth van Tongeren. She finds the amendment that Mansveld can intervene, unnecessary. "A license can now already be withdrawn, but that never happens." Misunderstood Chemical Industry The chemical industry has always had a bad image. Possibly this is because many people simply do not know what is happening inside these companies and when there is an accident, it is often a severe one. The chemical industry in the Netherlands is a high-tech business and that can also be seen in the training of workers. A third of the staff has a college or university education and two-third finished a secondary vocational education. The sector employs approximately 64,000 people in the Netherlands. Because of the bad image the chemical industry tries to do its best where safety and environment are concerned. These efforts often lead to results that can not be matched by other sectors in the Netherlands . Unfortunately, some companies such as tank storage company Odfjell in Rotterdam, affect the image of the entire industry sector. Chemical industry very important for the Dutch economy The numbers do not lie. At the site of the Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI) the results of the chemical industry in 2012 are explained. Net sales in the chemical industry has risen again in the past year. In 2012, net sales amounted to € 60 billion (€ 53 billion excluding pharmaceuticals), an increase of about 9 % compared to 2011. This increase was caused by a slight increase in selling prices and increased production. The prices of domestic sales rose faster than those of foreign sales. The results of 2012 have reached a higher level than the results in 2007, which was the best production year before the crisis! The chemical industry continues with 2.5 %, to be a major contributor to the Dutch gross domestic product (2 % excluding pharmaceuticals). 80 % Of the chemicals produced in the Netherlands are exported. Exports increased by 5 % in 2012 to an amount of € 77 billion . What stood out this year is that exports to Asia increased by 15 %, while exports to the United States decreased by 25 %. Exports of chemical products is 18 % of total merchandise exports and 20 % of exported goods produced in the Netherlands. Imports rose by 8% in 2012 to 50 billion euro. Therefore the chemical industry yielded in 2012 a positive contribution to the trade balance of € 27 billion euro, which is 64 % of the total of goods.