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It's official: Platinum II ship is toxic

NEW DELHI: The Union environment and forest ministry team sent to assess the toxic materials on-board the controversial ship Platinum II, anchored in Indian waters near Alang for ship-breaking, has confirmed the vessel contains tonnes of toxins.

The central team was dispatched to Gujarat to assess the condition and contents of the ship, after activists raised concerns about a contaminated US ship being brought to Alang for demolition.

When the environment ministry inquired, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board reported that the ship did contain hundreds of tonnes of asbestos and tonnes of banned persistent-organic-pollutant Polichlorinated Bipheny on board. Not satisfied with the GPCB report, the environment ministry dispatched its own technical team which submitted its report on October 23.

"All hazardous waste like asbestos and PCBs, and radioactive material were found to be present in the ship in its structure as is prevalent in any ship of this type and size of 1950s," the report said.

The technical team, during a one-day trip to the ship, made an assessment of the asbestos contained on board but the members found "it difficult to quantitatively assess quantity of PCBs".

The report put the import of the ship in clear violation of the Stockholm Convention, which bans movement of POP chemicals. Also, India does not have any treatment or disposal facility to handle such cancer causing chemicals.

The central committee, strangely though, pointed out that it was ill-equipped and not made of the right members to inspect the ship carefully. "The team actually faced great difficulties in carrying out the inspection, particularly of such dead vessel that too much inside sea far away from anchorage point. The problems are further aggravated when the ships are too big/high and the inspection team consists of untrained experts not conversant with climbing the top of the ship on monkey ladder," the report said.

The committee recommended that another panel be set up -- a standing monitoring committee on ship breaking -- to monitor and review its recommendations on a half-yearly basis. The technical committee has not made any recommendations on how to treat a patently illegal anchoring of the toxic ship in Indian waters.

Nitin Sethi,
The Times of India
6 November 2009

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