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

23/10/2009

Letter to US Govt on Convicted Toxic Ship


To

Mr Paul A. Folmsbee
U.S. Consulate General, Mumbai
Lincoln House
78 Bhulabhai Desai Road
Mumbai 400 026
India

U.S. Embassy
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi - 110021

10 October, 2009

Sub: Illegal entry of convicted toxic US ship in Indian waters

Dear Sir,

On behalf on Indian Platform on Shipbreaking, I would like to bring to your attention the entry of the SS Oceanic (now named PLATINUM II), a convicted US ship in the Indian waters violating the US law under which it is illegal to export the highly toxic banned substance for any reason. The entry of this ship is manifestly illegal. It is reliably learnt that the name of the ship has again been changed. The new name of the ship has not been made public. The matter regarding
this ship has been brough to the notice of the US authorties by Basel Action Network, a US based NGO as well.

I have received information that a dummy company has been created and registered in Liberia and a MOU has been signed between this dummy company and the Haryana Shipbreaking Ltd. US authorities can ascertain from the Indian Customs and all the port authorities should verify whether the port of registry is genuine or fake. It is a case of fabrication of documents to bypass the USEPA order wherein it was never mentioned that the ship is being sent to a dummy company.

As of October 10, 2009 according to the information received from very reliable sources, the ship was due to get beached in the Plot No. B-5 of Rajeev Reniwal, Haryana Ship Breakers Ltd, in Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Right now the ship is in the Bhavnagar anchorage point, Gujarat. The ship was under tow. Indian government has submitted to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that a ship under tow should be under go pre-cleaning and the Indian Supreme Court has also sought prior decontamination of such ships in the country of export.

The ship should be sent back to US in the same way as was done in the case of Le Clemenceau. The US authorities must act before the ship is handed over to Rajiv Reniwal, the owner of Haryana Ship Breakers Ltd by Anil Sharma, the current owner of ship. Reniwal is the same owner who brought before the Supreme Court the matter of the SS Blue Lady (SS Norway) ship which contained toxic substances.

Anchorage permission was granted after Desk review wherein Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Customs gave the clearance on 8th October, 2009. The hand over of the ship is likely to take place on either 11th October or 12th October. Once again in order to present a fait accompli the GMB is conniving with Anil Sharma and it is being said that Platinum-2 has collided with another vessel Amira S' ship. A tug named Barracuda-1 was involved the ship being pulled.

Earlier, two Maryland companies involved with SS Oceanic (now named PLATINUM II), were made by US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to pay the US federal government more than $518,000 as a penalty for having illegally sent this old ocean liner containing toxic PCBs overseas for disposal and shipbreaking. The companies in question were Cumberland-based Global Shipping LLC and an affiliate, Global Marketing Systems Inc.

The shipbreaking operations endanger workers and the immediate environment by failing to manage asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, and residual fuels. The ship is an international fugitive vessel. This 682 foot ocean liner is loaded with an estimated 210 tons of toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated material and an estimated 250 tons of asbestos as part of its construction.

On 29 January, 2009 after a U.S company Global Marketing Systems, Inc. (GMS) involved in sending hundreds of ships to the infamous shipbreaking beaches of Bangladesh and India was forced to pay the penalty and certify that they would not undertake such actions again.

We demand that the US government take action to have the ship returned to a US port, the USEPA had claimed they lacked the authority to have the ship recalled. The USEPA took legal action against GMS for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the law which prohibits the exportation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a persistent toxic pollutant used in the paints, insulation and gasketry in older ships.

After the order of USEPA convicting the owners of Platinum (SS Independence) based on the application of Basel Action Network (BAN), a US based NGO had said warning the authorities for unscrupulous operators to exploit loopholes to export very toxic US ships to the beaches like Alang, Gujrat. Its suspicion has been proven right. BAN is a member organization of the Platform on Shipbreaking, an international coalition seeking to ban beaching and unsustainable ship
scrapping. In February 2008, the USEPA was tipped off when they discovered that Global Marketing Systems, Inc. (GMS), headed up by a world famous cash-buyer of obsolete ships, Anil Sharma, had taken ownership of the SS Oceanic (now renamed Platinum II) and had the old passenger liner towed out of San Francisco Bay with the intent of scrapping the vessel on the beaches in South Asia.

It is high time SS Oceanic (now renamed Platinum II) is recalled by the US government. This act of trade in hazardous ships entails a “knowing and willful” criminal violation, and they could find
themselves behind bars.” US government agencies have so far ignored each other’s rules and continue to facilitate ship dealers being able to circumvent toxics laws such as TSCA by their actions or inaction.

US Maritime Administration (MARAD) must stop such instances of change the flag of a ship from a U.S. flag to a “flag of convenience” and then make the transaction and export.

Soon after US EPA initiated its enforcement action against Global and its sister organization Global Shipping LLC, GMS had requested a new application to the Maritime Administration seeking approval to sell the vessel but changing the purpose of export from disposal to continued use of the vessel. The US authorities could have pre-empted this illegal traffic of the ship.

Import of a toxic ship from the US (a non-Party to UN treaty on hazardous wastes-Basel Convention), for full or partial dismantling by a country that is a Party to the Basel Convention is a violation of the terms of the treaty. However, as was the case with the last NCL
ocean liner that needed to be disposed of -- the SS Norway (SS Blue Lady), by the time it is rammed up onto the beaches at Alang, India, it may be too late to seek legal recourse.

Ships-for-scrap, unless decontaminated, are hazardous wastes by virtue of the fact that most, if not all, ships contain a range of hazardous material in their structure. Clearly, the motivation of the US to export the ships without decontamination is meant to avoid the decontamination cost, monumental environmental and labour safety costs that will have to be borne if the scrapping is attempted to be done in line with the existing regulations in the US.

We have been following the deliberations in the US about the option of disposing more than 300 old ships without prior decontamination in the South Asian shipbreaking yards like the one at Alang beach. But the then US vice president Al Gore had placed a moratorium on the sale of US Government-owned ships-for-scrap to foreign yards after Indian trade unions and environmental organisations had protested outside the US embassy in New Delhi in January 1998.

Furthermore, such an export is illegal under US and international law and it violates Indian Supreme Court’s ruling prohibiting the import of hazardous wastes. We are strongly opposed to any proposal that will export the liabilities associated with the toxic US ships-for-scrap to
India.

We demand that the US Government recall Platinum II (SS Oceanic) and withdraw any proposal it may have to export its toxic ships-for-scrap to India for breaking, and work towards a program that will safely dismantle these ships in the US.

I would be glad to share more details.

Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Indian Platform on Shipbreaking
New Delhi
Mb: 9818089660
E-mail: krishnagreen@gmail.com

CC/
US Maritime Administration (MARAD)
USEPA
Focal Point, Basel Convention, India

Copies of the letter has also been sent to Indian ministries of environment, steel and shipping.

P.S: Given below is the latest Press Release of Basel Action Network, www.ban.org, the US based NGO that was instrumental in t he conviction of this toxic US ship.

9 comments:

  1. I have contacted directors of MARAD and US DOT.gov regarding the historical problems with the vessel, advising that they issue a Seize order for SS Oceanic (by whatever name) and also for its likeness SS United States to prevent further criminal activity. john.porcari@dot.gov is notified as of Sunday.

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