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
Alang's fake document factory & Dead US ship Platinum II
Mr Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister for Environment & Forests
Government of India
Subject- Implementation of order on US ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) & Alang's fake document factory
This is to inform you that despite your order on US Ship "Platinum -II"(SS Oceanic, SS Independence), dated November 9th, 2009, the dead US ship is still at the Anchorage Point at Bhavnagar, Gujarat. As of now no one know as to who owns Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence). This is the question that remains unanswered. It is not a question of one dead ship alone.
No one know who has signed the Memorandum of Agreement with whom, whether this ship is insured, who is attending the ship and who is the owner of the ship. Initially, there were two tugs with the dead ship which brought it in Indian waters but now one tug is missing. It appears that the environmental issue of the toxic dead US ship has turned into a matter of criminal conspiracy as well. Intelligence documents quoted in newspapers appear to be right in warning the concerned authorities about security concerns from fake documents being manufactured in Alang and elsewhere. Alang can be deemed as a cooking factory for fake documents. Questions which have been raised about the situation Alang in the current session of the parliament awaits answers from the government.
Meanhwhile, industry has also revealed its concerns. Vishnu Kumar Gupta, President, Alang Ship Recycling Industries Association, Bhavnagar notes that there is controversy over ownership. The Republic of Kiribati, where the ship was claimed to be registered has clarified that the papers filed with Indian authorities by the ship-owners were fake.
"The government has rejected this ship for fabrication of document. It's the first time that the this issue has come up though it is rampant -- ships are brought in without clear identification of the owners and the port of registration. It's important to correct this for the security of the country and the shipbreakers," said Pravin Nagarsheth, president of the Iron Steel Scrap and Shipbreaking Association of India as reported in The Times of India (10 November 2009).
Notably, as per Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) Inspection Reports and other documents submitted by GPCB and Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) to Central Technical Team constituted by Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, the US ship named ‘Platinum-II’ (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) with IMO No. 5160180 was towed by Tug – Barracuda-I from Dubai. The name of the Tug that towed Platinum-II is Barracuda-I (IMO No. 6717019). This tug too is not registered with Kiribati Ship Registry, Singapore
Komal Kant Sharma, the owner of Leela Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd had offered to buy the convicted and dead US ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence). As per the report of the Central Technical Team, the ship still had a US flag painted on its chimney.
In order dated November 9th, 2009, you had asked Gujarat Maritime Board to probe allegations that the ship had been brought into India with a falsified flag and registry, it appears that an inquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alone would unearth the malpractices underway because GMB does not have the competence to deal with cases of fraudulent and criminal misrepresentation.
While the November 7, 2009 order of the union environment ministry has established that in the aftermath of the September 6 and Setember 11, 2007 order of the Supreme Court, the post of registry of most of more than 200 ships have not been properly investigated before desk clearance and the entry of dead and toxic ships in India. There is a need for ordering the investigation of the port of registry of all the dead ships that came at Alang after the somewaht ambiguous order of the Supreme Court dated September 6, 2007 and September 11, 2007 (apparently undermining the order of 14th October, 2003).
It creates a compelling logic to do so now both with regard to previous ships and any new ship in future. The intelligence reports too refer to threats to our environmental security and 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. The minutes of the Inter-ministerial committee on shipbreaking (constituted by the Supreme Court) refers to security threats from the Alang based industry. It merits attention as well.
Indian government authorties and media fails once again in its reporting about the ownership of the obsolete US ship. Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has repeatedly created a corporate veil to flaunt the law. The ownership of Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) was transferred to a shell company known as California Manufacturing Corporation, which is located in the same building as Star Cruises/NCL in Miami, Florida. This company transferred the ownership to Global Shipping LLC & its affiliate Global Marketing Services. At no point was there any evidence that any Indian has bought the ship.
Repeating the mistakes committed by both government officials and media as in the case of Le Clemenceau, the French ship wherein they kept stating and reporting till the end tha the ship was owned by an Indian owner, in the Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) matter too it continued to report that it is owned by an Indian owner despite evidence to the contrary. The officials and the media did not rectify its errors at any moment even when it became abundantly clear the it was owned by the French company. In the present case of Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) too so far it has failed to make amends.
The story of Riky, the Danish ship, Le Clemenceau, SS Blue Lady and others creates a compelling need for investigating the ownership of the ship and the name of the country which owns it. The case of Riky merits special attention. First, a ship with dubious credentials left the shores of Denmark. Then a month later, Indian government allowed it to beach at Alang. On 23 April 2005, "Riky" arrived for scrapping at Alang under the jurisdiction of Gujarat Maritime Board. Even the flag under which the ship sailed in isn't perfectly clear. N B Deshmukh, Assistant Commissioner, Customs Division, Bhavnagar, Gujarat said that Riky was carrying the flag of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea). However, the ship's admission into India was challenged in the Supreme Court alleging that the ship sailed in under the flag of Roxa, a non-existent "country". The case is still pending in the apex court. Even in this case the registration document for renaming the ship was fabricated to allow beaching in a bid to confuse the Danish authorities. Riky has since been dismantled but the issue of whether Government of India's decision to let in the ship enter Indian waters illegal and wrong remains unsettled. The role of Environment Ministry officials like Mr M Subba Rao in these matters has been a matter of great speculation.
The transfer of obsolete ships to developing countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is in keeping with the US policy of ensuring migration of dirty industries, hazardous wastes and outdated technolgies from its country because it feels there is an impeccable (but insane) economic logic behind it (Courtesy: Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House's National Economic Council for the US President). This is done to escape deconatmination and worker's health care costs. That's why more than 300 such rotten ships are waiting in US alone to be dumped.
Meanwhile, Liau Siew Leng Operation Manager, Kiribati Ship Registry, Singapore is believed to have lodged a complaint with the Indian authortities in the case of fraudulent misrepresentation by the owners of Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence).
Sequence of events regarding Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) is revealing
Following the 2001 bankruptcy of American Hawaii Cruises, the owners of the American Hawaii Line, SS Independence became the property of the US Maritime Administration and sailed from Honolulu to San Francisco, arriving on 8 November 2001. In February 2003, SS Independence was sold at auction for US$4 million to Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). On October 24, 2005, Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Line sold the Independence to a subsidiary company, named - “California Manufacturing Corporation”, coincidentally it has its offices in the Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Line Headquarters in Miami, Florida. In October 2005 itself, SS Independence was reregistered under a new name with details: IMO: 5160180 - Name: Oceanic - Call sign: KPHI - Registered: USA.
California Manufacturing Corporation claimed that the ship was sold to someone on July 26, 2007. It claims that there is a confidentiality document in place so they can not divulge the name of the buyer. Thus while the ship continued to fly a US flag, the last registered owner was California Manufacturing Corporation/Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and the new owner did not get it registered and has intentionally not revealed itself.
In February-March 2008, a letter to California Manufacturing Corporation by environmental groups hand delivered in Miami, Florida, which was accepted by Lillia Suarez, Assistant Administrator of Maritime Operations Department of Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines.
In July 2008, the ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) landed in Dubai and from there it came in Indian waters.
Chronology of the ownership of the ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) illustrates the designs of the owners to escape decontamination cost in their own country:
1951—1974: American Export Lines
1974—1979: Atlantic Far East Lines
1989—1982: American Hawaii Cruises
1982—1996: American Global Line
1996—2001: American Hawaii Cruises
2001—2003: United States Maritime Administration
2003—2005: California Manufacturing Corp/Norwegian Cruise Line/Star Cruises
2005: Norwegian Cruise Line/Star Cruises
2005—California Manufacturing Corp/Norwegian Cruise Line/Star Cruises
2006-July 2007-California Manufacturing Corp/Norwegian Cruise Line/Star Cruises
July 2007 -February 2008- Ship was berthed in San Francisco Bay, California
July 2007- 29 January 2009– Ship was owned by Global Shipping LLC & its affiliate Global Marketing Services
September 2009- Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) last registered at Republic of Kiribati in the name of M/s Platinum Investment Services Corporation in September with its last port shown as Dubai (as per misleading information supplied for the report of Central Technical Team, Indian Ministry of Environment Forests on the inspection of Ship “Platinum-II” anchored at Bhavnagar Anchorage Point, Gujarat dated 23 October, 2009).
October 2009- Leela Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd claims it has bought the ship from a Greek owner. A new Memorandum of Agreement entered (on 12.10.2009) by M/s Platinum Investment Corporation with another recycler namely Leela Ship Recyclers Pvt Ltd., Plot. No.2, Alang Ship Recycling Yard, in place of M/s Haryana Ship Demolition Pvt Ltd. A copy of the Transfer Deed along with NOC from M/s Hariyana Ship Demolition (P) Ltd (as per the report of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board)
November 2009- Indian environment ministry bans the beaching of the ship in Indian waters
November 2009- Leela Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd says it would rethink on buying the ship Platinum II and it is up to the "present owner" to decide its fate
December 2009- Platinum II remains in Indian waters with unknown ownership.
Now no one in India knows who is this present owner (or Greek owner).
In 1951, the 18,500-tonne ship, originally known as SS Independence and then SS Oceanic, registered in the US, underwent many changes until it surfaced as Platinum II. In September 2009, it was reportedly registered in the Republic of Kiribati, an island-nation in the Pacific Ocean, in the name of Platinum Investment Services Corporation, Liberia. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) had levied penalties of $518,500 against Global Shipping LLC and its affiliate Global Shipping Marketing Systems Inc for ‘exporting’ the controversial ship for disposal outside the US, in violation of various laws. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL)/Star Cruise which sold the ship to GMS has a reputation for negligence and evasion of international and national environmental and safety laws. The website of GMS brags of buying and facilitating more than 100 ships per year being exported to Asia for scrapping. In February 2008, the dead US ship was towed out of US territorial waters and now it anchored off Gopnath, 40 nautical miles from Alang coast, on October 7, 2009.
The US government must be made to arrange for its return to the US and probe into acts of omission and commission of Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL)/Star Cruise/-California Manufacturing Corporation and Anil Sharma's Global Shipping LLC and its affiliate Global Shipping Marketing Systems Inc. The deafening silence of US agencies like Maritime Administration, Coast Guard Investigative Service, National Transportation Safety Board and their connivance merits investigation as well.
The entire episode seems to build up a case for the investigation of documents of more than 200 ships that came to Alang (post September 6 & 11, 2007 order of the Supreme Court) to stop this malpractice and to bring the culprits who are making fake certificates of the post of registry and the conniving officials to book.
It is high time steps are taken to take the industry away from beach so that both the coastal environment of Alang beach is protected along with the occupational health of workers besides addressing the concerns of the local villagers and fishermen.
Note: The role of connivance played by US Agencies ought to be taken note of. In the case of Platinum II, the US Maritime Administartion (MARAD) appers to be in complicity because it chose not to act despite an adverse order of US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) against the ship. Earlier, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) finished its investigative work with regard to SS Blue Lady (SS Norway, SS France) in 2003 and turned the ship back over to the Norwegian Cruise Line Limited (NCL)/Star Cruise. The NTSB chose not to reveal its findings about what caused the blast in SS Norway in Miami till the time the Indian Supreme Court delivered its final order on 6/11 September 2007. The US National Transportation Safety Board released its findings on October 29, 2007 wherein it charged Norwegian Cruise Line Limited (NCL)/Star Cruise under federal shipping laws with grossly negligent operation of the S.S. Norway. The US Department of Justice release noted that "S.S. NORWAY, itself, has been permanently removed from maritime service." The responses from US agencies seemed stage-managed by the company in question. R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Acosta and Rear Admiral Robert S. Branham, Commander Seventh Coast Guard District, stated that the maritime industry will held accountable for marine safety. This appears to be mere lip-service. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, whose investigative efforts led to the charges in this case. It noteworthy that the ship was scrapped under the name Blue Lady in Alang, an Indian beach in Gujarat saving huge amount of decontamination cost for the company named Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL)/Star Cruise/-California Manufacturing Corporation. In both the cases of Blue Lady and Platinum II, Norwegian Cruise Line Limited (NCL)/Star Cruise has been involved at some stage.