It’s a matter of human nature. If something is banned or outlawed there will be an illegal trade or black market set up. It’s the way of the world. Unfortunately, the same thing can be said when it comes to CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-22.
It was discovered earlier this year that traces of R-11 and R-10 were being found in the atmosphere again. After some research from various countries the origination point was found to be in eastern Asia. It was eventually pinpointed to China. Rogue companies in China had setup shop creating foams and refrigerants using the illegal refrigerants. Luckily, these were one-off companies and not the country of China behind the emissions. Once they were found and identified arrests were made. The question now though is who is buying these illegal refrigerants? How are they getting through the ports?
Last month in Pakistan we have one example. A sharp eyed customs official in Karachi received a tip stating that illegal refrigerants were being smuggled through his port. With that in mind this customs official noticed something odd about a recent refrigerant shipment. The shipment was classified as R-32 and had large stickers all of over it stating it as R-32. Along with that there were multiple labels stating that the shipment was flammable. Come to find out, this flammable label has been used in the past to deter customs officials from physically reviewing the product.
The customs official decided to open the shipment and test some of the refrigerant. The test came back, and lo and behold, it was R-22. The product was destined to a company called ‘M/S Cool Corporation.’ The shipment originated in, you guessed it, China. From China it was shipped to Dubai and then shipped over Karachi. I don’t know much about international shipping, but it seems odd to ship it to two different ports. This could have been another way to mask the origin.
Here’s the thing though folks. This wasn’t just a small shipment of R-22 that was trying to sneak through. No… this was one of the largest smuggling shipments that I’ve heard of. The total R-22 shipment weighed in at nearly forty-thousand pounds of refrigerant. (18,000 kilograms.) Now, I don’t know the typical Pakistani price on R-22 but if we go off the United States price right now of around eleven dollars per pound then we can assume that this shipment was worth around four-hundred and forty-thousand dollars. That is a huge number and could have resulted in enormous profit if it hadn’t been caught. For now, the shipment is in Pakistani custody until a determination has been made what to do with it.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article refrigerant smuggling is a booming business and it seems that most of it’s origins can be traced back to China. Now, it doesn’t seem like China condones this behavior but they also don’t seem to be doing a lot to stop it either.
The good news is that even with this smuggling the Montreal Protocol is still seen as a success. Just recently there were a few articles published stating that the Ozone is making a decent recovery and that it may be completely healed in another forty to fifty years. If we want this trend to continue then the world, and China, has to become more vigilant on illegal CFC and HCFC production and trading.