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

10/10/2009

US Dumps Toxic Ship in India

Sources reveal that letters that has been sent to US Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration (MARAD), Washington, DC asking them to recall the ship Platinum 2 (SS Oceanic) which has violated the US law has been acknowledged and they are believed to be acting on it. Sources from Alang have revealed that the owners of the ship have sent a misleading SOS message to local authorities saying that if its not beached it would get drowned. Sources in the environment ministry say that for the safety of the port the ship be taken off the anchorage point in Bhavnagar. It is being said that the ship is under the corporate veil of Platinum Investments registered in Liberia although behind the veil lies the previous owner of the ship.

It is being feared that the following the undue favours provided to the local Indian authorities might act to create an excuse to get the ship beached. Sources from Alang have revealed that the owners of the ship have sent a misleading SOS message to local authorities saying that if its not beached it would get drowned. This gives a sense of deja vu. Similar lame excuses and humanitarian grounds were invoked at the time of SS Blue Lady(SS Norway). National opposition parties have issued statements against this toxic waste imperialism of US and are demanding that the ship be sent back to US.

Who is the owner of the Hazardous Wastes laden American Ship, what is its present port of registry. Does any one know?
Note: Amid demands that US authorities should recall this convicted ship with IMO No. 5160180, environment ministry officials undertook a pre-planned and stage managed visit to Bhavnagar on 12th October to find out teh details about the ship. Notably, Gujarat Pollution Control Board does not even have laboratory to test the toxic PCBs which are on the ship. Latest reports from reliable industry sources reveal that the Indian buyer has backed out fearing legal action. This entails a major security breach because no one knows as to who invited the ship India. The owner of the ship is non-traceable. Naval Intelligence which has been seized with the matter must file an immediate report in the matter so that teh ship is sent back at the earliest. Notably, the owners of the leaking imported waste oil containers lying at some ports are also not traceable. The hazardous waste trade and the illegalities therein are following a pattern. Supreme Court's Monitoring Committee had recommended that nothing short of an inquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) can get to the bottom of the dubious goings on. Besides environmental and labour groups, most Indian shipbreakers are opposed to its beaching in India. Sources reveal that efforts are on to rope in another shipbreaker to buy the ship in India to escape punitive legal action.

This 18,503-tonne passenger ship Platinum II is at the Bhavnagar anchorage point. It is now reported to be at plot no. 2. Officials like P M Rathod, Alang Port Officer seem to be playing into the hands of the vested interests when they invoke dubious humanitarian grounds as they had in the case of SS Blue Lady if the vessel is indeed in danger, it should be taken off the anchorage point for the safety of the port. Platinum II has nine decks and passenger capacity of 1,021 people. The vessel is estimated to cost approximately Rs 35 crore.


Photographs of the SS Oceanic (now Platinum2) were taken by Patrick Race & is available on smaritime.com
Press Release
Platinum II (formerly SS Oceanic, SS Independence) violates International and national laws of US and India
New Delhi/10/10/2009: An urgent letter from Indian Platform on Shipbreaking has been sent to US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA), Consul of United States of America in India, Indian Ministry of Shipping, Environment & Forests and Steel concerning asbestos, PCB and radioactive laden the vessel named Platinum II (formerly SS Oceanic, SS Independence) that has changed its name again to hoodwink the authorities. The ship’s IMO No. is 5160180. Barack Obama’s USEPA has disappointed environmental groups through his regressive environmental policies.

As of October 10, 2009 according to the information received from very reliable sources, the ship was due for beaching 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.

Earlier, on 29 January, 2009 a US company Global Marketing Systems, Inc. (GMS) involved in sending hundreds of obsolete ships to the infamous shipbreaking beaches like Alang was forced to pay the penalty and certify that they would not undertake such actions again. 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. PCBs, or plychlorinated biphenyls have been linked to cancer, liver and skin disease, reproductive repairment, immune system damage and behavioural and neurological damage.

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.

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.

On 8th October, 2009, anchorage permission was granted after Desk review wherein Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Customs gave the clearance. 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. The port of registry is Libera and a dummy company has been created to undertake the transaction process.

Indian Platform on Ship-breaking, a coalition of environmental, health, labour and human rights are demanding that the US government must recall the ship in the same way as the French had recalled Le Clemenceau.

Given the fact that Rajeev Gauba, Joint Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Union Ministry of Environment is abroad till 19th October, a message has been sent to the Union Minister, Jairam Ramesh.

Letters from the Platform has also been sent to the concerned authorities informing them that the ship in question has been convicted and penalized by the USEPA in January 2009. The entry of the ship in the Indian waters is in violation of the UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary movement of hazardous wastes & their disposal. The ship has not complied with the Court's orders of 14th October, 2003 that has also endorsed the Basel Convention and deemed it as part of right to life.

As per the exiting rules, if the ship breaking facility is not deemed by the country of import, or the country of export as possessing the capability for "Environmentally Sound Management" then import/export must be prohibited. Exporting country can be the country where a ship owner is located, a port state, or the flag state. Parties to the Convention such as India is duty bound to prohibit trade in hazardous wastes between themselves and non-Parties like US without a special bi/multilateral Agreement.

A Basel Party wishing to export a ship containing hazardous materials for scrapping must first notify and then receive consent from recipient country prior to export. Prior Informed Consent (PIC) paperwork is required including a notification indicating that the ship does not contain any hazardous or radioactive substances onboard. Such a notification will require full sampling and testing of various onboard materials.

The ship should be properly decontaminated by the ship owner prior to export for its breaking. In the case of Platinum II (formerly S S Oceanic), US is a non party to the UN treaty on hazardous wastes of which India is a party. For ship like these, the September 2007 order too reiterates, "…a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous substances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking." The same has not been complied with.

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. 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 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.

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 court had given conditional clearance to shipbreaking activity under the clear mandate for the decontamination (pre-cleaning) of ships of their hazardous substances including asbestos, radioactive material, waste oils, gases and both solid and liquid PCB contaminated material and any other substances covered by the Basel Convention prior to imports for breaking.

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. Meanwhile, the shipbreaking case remains pending in the Supreme Court of India after the retirement of Justice Arijit Pasayat. The matter came for hearing on 11 September, 2009 before Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph. The matter is listed for the next hearing on 13th November, 2009.

For details: Gopal Krishna, Mb: 9818089660,
E-mail:krishnagreen@gmail.com
Also visit: www.ban.org, http://www.shipbreakingplatform.com/



Background of the convicted toxic US ship

Platinum II (formerly, SS Oceanic, SS Independence) is an ocean liner built in 1951 by Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Quincy, Massachusetts, USA for American Export Lines. In 1959, Independence was rebuilt as a cruise ship. Between 1974 and 1982 she sailed as SS Oceanic Independence, after which she reverted to her original name. Since 2006 the ship has been named SS Oceanic. On 8 February 2008, after being mothballed for 7 years, SS Oceanic left San Francisco for Singapore, and was reported to be going to Dubai.

The ship measures 683 feet (208 m) in length and 23,719 gross register tons. She was capable of cruising at 26 knots. She accommodated 1,000 passengers, and was designed to accommodate 5,000 soldiers during wartime. SS Oceanic is the last US built ocean liner to sail under the American flag. Following the 2001 bankruptcy of American Hawaii Cruises, the owners of the American Hawaii Line, The ship became the property of the US Maritime Administration and sailed from Honolulu to San Francisco, arriving on 8 November 2001.

In February 2003, Independence was sold at auction for US$4 million to Norwegian Cruise Line, which also acquired SS United States. At this time, NCL received permission to create US flagged cruise operation, to be named NCL America. (US flagging is a valuable competitive advantage, as the Passenger Vessel Service Act prohibits non-US lines from transporting passengers from one US port to another without stopping at a foreign port, and in particular it permits 7-day Hawaii cruises. As US flagging requires US-built ships, no other major cruise operation is US-flagged.)

In mid-2006, Independence was renamed Oceanic, amid speculation she may be scrapped. In July 2007, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that Oceanic had been sold with later reports claiming the ship had been purchased by an American company.

SS Oceanic was towed out of San Francisco Bay on 8 February 2008. Its final destination was revealed to be Singapore, but was changed to Dubai but has been stopped due to a complaint filed by the USEPA that the ship was being towed to a overseas scrap yard. There were reports that the ship was destined for the scrapyard in Bangladesh, but it has landed in Indian waters with impunity.

Global Marketing Systems, last owner of the SS Oceanic (now named Platinum II) was fined $518,500 by USEPA for exporting the ship for scrap without prior removal of toxins such as asbestos and PCBs. One can find the USEPA statement here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/ab2d81eb088f4a7e85257359003f5339/8e2829ba962e93528525754d0061d10c!OpenDocument

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