This group tracks the responses of shipping industry towards environmental health concerns, highlights influence of shipping companies from EU, US and Japan etc on IMO and its Marine Environment Protection Committee & South Asian governments. It is keen to restore beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to their pristine glory for the coming generations. For more information visit: www.toxicswatch.org, banasbestosindia.blogspot.com

13/10/2009

American Toxic Ship Must Be Sent Back

The US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) through its order dated 28 and 29 January, 2009 has barred the ship Platinum II (formerly SS Oceanic, SS Independence) from leaving US waters for scrapping of the ship. If this order is to be followed then and even as per Indian law the ship must be sent back to US in the same way as the French ship Le Clemenceau. The order is available at http://www.ban.org/Library/Global_CAFO.pdf
One can find the USEPA statement here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/ab2d81eb088f4a7e85257359003f5339/8e2829ba962e93528525754d0061d10c!OpenDocument
Nothing short of an inquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation can ascertain the circumstances undue which this US ship entered Indian waters with impunity. All the conniving Gujarat Maritime Board officials, Custom officials and one environment ministry official who are hand in glove with the US ship owners who have created a corporate veil to hide behind it must be made liable for their acts of omission and commission. The ship should should be taken away from the Bhavnagar anchorage point outside Port limits, or outside the territorial waters, or the Exclusive Eco-nomic Zone (EEZ). Upon entry into the Port area, a ship was allowed to be anchored by dropping one or more anchors to the seabed. A ship at anchor may lift its anchors, and sail away. Anchoring of ships is thus fully reversible. In the case of the US ship, therefore, there is a clear case for reversing the ship back to US.

According to the Indian Supreme Court order of September 6, 2007 the "Recommended Process for Anchoring" is as follows: "The ship owner or recycler should submit the following documents well in advance of the arrival of the ship for recycling for a desk review by the SMB in consultation with SPCB and Customs Department:
a)Name of the Ship
b) IMO Identification No.
c) Flag
d) Call Sign
e) Name of the Master of the Ship and his nationality
f) List of the crew
g) GRT/NRT/LDT of the ship with supporting documents
h) Assessment of hazardous wastes/hazardous substances:
In the structure of the ship, and on board as far as practicable by reference to the ship's, draw-ings, technical specifications, ship's stores, manifest, in consultation with the ship builder, equipment manufacturers and others as appropriate. In the case of ships of special concern, in addition to identification and marking of all areas containing hazardous wastes/hazardous sub-stances, quantification of such wastes/substances would also be necessary."

"After desk review by SMB/SPCB/Customs, a decision will be taken regarding permission for an-chorage of the ships. In case, permission is refused by any one of these three agencies, the ship owner would be entitled to both a review and appeal. SMB and Customs Dept. would separately notify the procedure therefor along with the time frames and consequences of not adhering to the time frames. In the case of SPCB, while review would be done by an appropriate authority of the SPCB itself, the appeal would lie with the CPCB since there are no specific legal provisions gov-erning this. Once a decision is taken to accord permission for anchorage, instructions for safe anchorage would be issued by the SMB."

In this case Desk review meant exchange of handsome cash transfer. In fact it is a public knowledge that GMB and GPCB have become a den of corruption.

Not surprisingly, there was a Environment Ministry team in Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat to investigate the death of the six workers who were burnt to death in August 2009 on plot no. 24. Sources from Alang have informed that these officials and the local officials of Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) have been silenced with money power. And therefore, they are unlikely to give any adverse report. Ironically, these very officials have consistently said along with GMB that Alang beach is a safe place for hazardous industrial activity like ship dismantling even as the rate of death and accident is rising at an alarming rate. The incident took place when some workers of Alang Auto & General Engineering Co. (P) Ltd were cutting down the engine portion of ship ‘MS Jesica’.

The track record of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in safeguarding Alang beach has consistently been quite bad for it permits hazardous industrial activity in this fragile coastal ecosystem with scant regard for environmental and occupational health of the communities and the workers. GPCB's Regional Manager in conversation with a journalist has accepted that in his report sent to his Gandhinagar office he has mentioned that there is radioactive material, PCBs and asbestos on the ship. The journalist pointed out the apprehension that his report might be manipulated before it is sent to the Union Environment Ministry under the influence of vested interests who have prevailed over and intimidated the local authorities.

The Court order has reiterated that "At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on ship-breaking at the level of the International Maritime Organisation and the Basel Convention's Technical Working Group with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous sub-stances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking." Besides the non-traceability of the owner and the violation of the USEPA order, the above order of the Supreme Court too has not been complied with in the case because the ship has not been pre-cleaned. In a manifest contempt of court a comprehensive Code on shipbreaking has not been formulated so far as was required by the apex court order. Till that is done, a new beginning can be made by sending the convicted toxic US back to US ports so that a bad precedent that can pave the way for 300 more such US ships to be dumped in India is avoided. Several members of Indian parliament have expressed grave concern.

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