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

09/11/2009

INDIAN GOVERNMENT BLOCKS TOXIC US SHIP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Forged Ship Registration Documents Confirmed as Environmentalists Claim Victory

10 November 2009, New Delhi – Following the discovery by the Basel Action Network (BAN) and Indian Platform on Shipbreakling that the national registry and flag of an aged American cruise liner had been falsified, the Indian government has ruled against allowing the US flagged ship, Platinum II, from being beached on the infamous shipbreaking beaches of Alang, India.[1] The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) cited the precautionary principle and the fact that the ship not only appeared to arrive in India with false documentation but also the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took legal action against Global Marketing Services (GMS) and sister company Global Shipping LLC (GSL), both companies set up by the notorious ship breaker Mr. Anil Sharma, for exporting the ship from San Francisco, California in 2008 in violation of the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)[2].

Responding to the order Office Memorandum on US Ship "Platinum -II", Dated November 9th, 2009 of the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment & Forests which was issued yesterday, Gopal Krishna of the Indian Platform Shipbreaking said, "It has established that post September 6, 2007 order of the Supreme Court, the post of registry of most of some 200 ships have not been properly investigated before desk clearance. It creates a compelling logic to do so now both with regard to previous ships and any new ship in future. It is noteworthy that the order categorically states, the order on the issue in question has been passed "with the approval of the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment & Forests", Jairam Ramesh. He has demonstrated that he would not let any agency compromise with the security of our environmental borders. One hopes that the concerned ministry officials would give up their old habits now. The intelligence reports have suggested in eth past that the current regulations seem to allow dead ships innocent passage through the entire stretch of Indian waters unscrutinized by the security agencies. Besides environmental security, maritime security, national security also seems to be a casualty. Notably, minutes of the Inter-ministerial committee on shipbreaking refers to security threats from the Alang based industry."

The Platinum II formerly known as the SS Oceanic (and originally, the SS Independence) arrived in Indian waters for scrapping on 8 October 2009 with papers saying its flag was that of the Republic of Kiribati and that it was owned by Platinum Investment Services of Monrovia, Liberia. But BAN received official confirmation from the Operations Manager at Kiribati Ship Registry, Liau Siew Leng, that the registration was a forgery. The Kiribati Ministry of Communications, Transport & Tourism Development Office further confirmed the falsified documents.

“Today's order by the Ministry of Environment & Forests advising against beaching is a victory in the fight against toxic trafficking and dumping on third world countries,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network, a member organization of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking. “Until now, India has been reluctant to expose the horrors of its shipbreaking industry. Hopefully they are beginning to realize that this industry is not worth the legacy of toxic waste, occupational disease and death, and illegality it leaves in its wake.”

The fraudulent ship registry is likely a violation of maritime law of the United States, India and Kiribati. The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) allowed the vessel to be sold to a non-citizen in April 2008 under the blanket approval in 46 C.F.R. 221.13. This general approval however did not grant approval for the sale of the vessel for scrapping in a foreign country. The vessel remains under the US flag and cannot be scrapped without MARAD’s approval. It is suspected that avoidance of US government scrutiny and denial of reflag permission for the purposes of scrapping is the rationale for the falsified re-registration. Further, the MOEF publicly released a report of the Central Technical Team on 5 November 2009 (internal release 26 October 2009) in which authorities confirmed the presence on board the ship of asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) as part of the vessel’s construction.

This finding confirms what environmental groups and the EPA have alleged since February 2008. GMS and GSL paid a settlement to the EPA of almost a half million dollars early this year without admitting a violation of the law. Exporting PCB material from the US is a violation of the Toxics Substances Control Act. After BAN blew the whistle on the ship export in 2008, GMS and GSL denied that the ship was being exported for scrap and said instead that it was being sold to an entity interested in reusing the ship. The ship sat for many months anchored off Dubai before suddenly appearing in Indian waters in October of this year under tow.

The relationship between GMS’s Mr. Sharma and the new owners is not clear. However, Mr. Dimitrios Koukas, President/Director of Platinum Investment Services, is also Managing Director of Optima Shipbrokers Ltd., and is listed as a business “reference” on GMS’ website[3]. In Alang, India, it was known that Platinum Investment Services was selling the vessel to Leela Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd upon its arrival in India for $4,851,000 for breaking. Leela is owned by Komal Sharma, Anil Sharma’s brother.

“This blatant attempt to skirt US law must not go unchallenged,” said Jim Puckett. “It’s time for the United States to stand strong against these corporate shams and in support of global environmental justice.”

For more information contact:

Gopal Krishna, Indian Platform on Shipbreaking, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishnagreen@gmail.com

Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, 206.652-5555, jpuckett@ban.org

[1] http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Office%20Memorandum_ship.pdf

[2] In February 2008, the SS Oceanic quietly departed from San Francisco Bay under tow and in breach of the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In January 2009, nearly one full year after its illegal departure, the EPA settled with owners, Global Shipping LLC (GSL) and Global Marketing Systems, Inc. (GMS), for illegal export of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which exist within the construction of the vessel. GMS and GSL were ordered to pay $518,500 in U.S. court as part of the settlement.

[3] http://www.gmsinc.net/gms/references.php

[4] Blog: imowatch.blogspot.com

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