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
Dr Dalip Singh
Inter-ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking
Union Ministry of Steel
Government of India
Subject-End of life UK ship's possible arrival in Indian waters
This is with reference to my earlier letters dated 24 February, 2010 and 4th March, 2010 in the matter of an end of life UK Ship that has changed name to avoid detection.
It is to draw your attention to the article below (Mystery surrounds future of impounded ship, 24th March 2010, Daily Echo), as per which the UK's Environment Agency has been in touch with the Indian authorities regarding UK ship Margaret Hill (now named Chill).
This ship has re-registered to the island of Comoros, off the eastern coast of Africa. Comoros is a well-known “flag of convenience” for ship owners to avoid national, EU and UN regulations. Chill (formerly Margaret Hill), a LNG carrier is a tank ship designed for transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG).
I wish to know if you are aware of any information received from UK regarding this dead ship as has been claimed by the UK authorities in UK media.
I have checked with Mr L S Singh, in Steel Ministry and Dr Saroj, the Indian Basel focal point in Ministry of Environment & Forests India and Ms Jacinta Jose, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Shipping. I been told that they have not received such information.
Currently, the ownership of the ship is an enigma. Now UK claims helplessness saying that the vessel has left UK waters it was out of their jurisdiction and they have no power to take action.
What appears to be a ploy, on 26 March 2010, Lloyd’s List reported that it “understands” that although India was the initial destination, “Margaret Hill will shortly head to China for demolition. Where the ship ultimately ends its days is likely to remain uncertain until it actually arrives at a demolition site.”
Earlier, this vessel was barred from leaving Southampton on August 8, 2009 over suspicions it was heading abroad to be dismantled illegally. It was noted that the action to stop the Margaret Hill leaving the docks is the first time powers have been used to stop a ship from leaving a UK port. The 50,700-tonne liquid natural gas tanker was detained by the UK's Environment Agency. The ship contains hazardous materials such as asbestos.
The official statement of the Environment Agency of UK is available here: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/110207.aspx
This ship was granted permission to depart in October, 2009 after the ships’s owner, Fortress Credit, informed them that the ship would be converted into a floating treatment plant. As is usual in the shady business world of the shipping companies, Margaret Hill got permission to leave Southampton under the false premises that it is to be repaired for further operation. This fraudulent misrepresentation merits legal action from the UK environment authorities who apparently choose to be gullible and be taken for a ride.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had written to Alison Gadsby of Environment Agency, UK, George Kiayias, European Commission - DG Environment, Dr Saroj, Basel Focal Point, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India bringing to their urgent attention the case of dead and toxic vessel, Margaret Hill of UK that has been sold for 10.2 million USD to Alang's dismantling beach in India. The IMO Number of the vessel is 7368841.
On March 1, 2010, the European Commission official informed TWA saying, "we are investigating the matter and have been in contact with British officials who are closely watching the situation. An assessment on whether a violation of EU legislation has taken place is still ongoing. While the Commission's role is to ensure that Member States properly enforce and apply EU legislation, it is the obligation of the Member States to ensure that economic operators comply with this legislation."
The 36-year-old, 87,600-cbm Margaret Hill (ex- Hoegh Galleon , built 1974), which had been touted as a conversion candidate for a floating LNG (FLNG) project, has been sold to Dubai-based cash buyer Argo Systems for onward sale into India.
UK's Environment Agency detained the ship on the grounds that under European law, the vessel, which contains asbestos and other hazardous substances, could not be sold to a country outside the European Union (EU) for demolition.
The vessel finally left its berth at Southampton in the UK in December, 2010 where it had been effectively laid up for over a year. At the time, industry players voiced their concerns that the ship would eventually go for scrapping.
It is obvious that European Commission is duty bound to ask the UK of its obligations under the European Waste Shipment Regulation.
Taking cognisance of the violation of EU laws and Basel Convention, in a communication dated February 22, 2010, George Kiayias of European Commission - DG Environment, Unit C2 - Sustainable Production & Consumption, Brussels had reacted saying, "We have been in contact with officials from DEFRA on this who are closely watching the situation. Dubai officials have already been alerted by England's Environment Agency who are currently planning to contact the Indian authorities and alert them as well. We expect to be updated on this matter as more news become available."
Under the laws, waste ships containing hazardous materials can only be dismantled at properly authorised dismantling facilities in either the EU or an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country. They cannot be sent to dismantling facilities in countries outside the EU or OECD such as India.
In the light of the violation of the EU laws and possible violation of Indian laws, the concerned agencies in India ought to ensure that the obsolete and hazardous ship from UK does not enter Indian waters.
Thank you in advance for responding as soon as possible.
Mr Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment & Forests , Government of India
Mr G K Wasan , Union Minister of Shipping , Government of India
Dr Saroj, Basel Focal Point, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India
Mr L S Singh, Union Ministry of Steel, Government of India
Mr George Kiayias, European Commission - DG Environment, Brussels, Belgium, Tel.: +32 2 29 97 792 - Fax.: +32 2 29 63 980, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Alison Gadsby, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), London
United Kingdom, Tel: (44 20) 72 38 43 33, Eemail@example.com
Mr Andy Howarth, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), London
United Kingdom, Tel: (44 20) 72 38 43 33 Efirstname.lastname@example.org
Mystery surrounds future of impounded ship
24th March 2010
By Peter Law
A SHIP stopped from leaving Southampton last year amid fears it would be illegally scrapped is at the centre of a major international row.
The Daily Echo can reveal the Margaret Hill, pictured below, a liquefied natural gas tanker, may soon be bound for India to be broken up in dangerous conditions.
The Environment Agency (EA) has warned the Indian authorities that the ship could be destined for their shores.
The 249-metre vessel’s name has been changed to “Chill” and it has been re-registered to the island of Comoros, off the eastern coast of Africa.
Anti-shipbreaking campaigners claimed Comoros was a well-known “flag of convenience” for shipowners to avoid regulations and all the evidence points to the tanker being scrapped.
Last year, the EA stopped the ship from leaving Southampton after receiving a tip-off that it could be scrapped in Asia.
After three months of talks, it was granted permission to depart in October, but only after the vessel’s owners, Fortress Credit, promised to put it back into use as a floating treatment plant.
An EA spokesman last night confirmed the conversion plan had collapsed and admitted there were fears it could now be scrapped.
She said ownership of the vessel was now a mystery, but it’s thought the New York investment fund still had some financial interest in it.
“We know that she has been re-registered. What we do not know is where she is going,” the spokesman said.
“We have contacted the authorities in India to make them aware that she may be destined for India for breaking, but there is no confirmation of that.”
Over the past two weeks EA officials lobbied Fortress Credit “to do the right thing”, but the spokesman said the agency was powerless to act.
“As soon as the vessel left UK waters it was out of our jurisdiction,” she said. “We do not have any powers to take action.”
Ingvild Jenssen, director of NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, in Brussels, Belgium, said the ship should have never been allowed to leave the city.
“We clearly warned them from the beginning that there is no market for such a vessel. Everything pointed to it being sold for breaking,” Ms Jenssen said.
Fortress Credit has refused several requests from the Echo to comment on the future of the ship.
Among the other partners in the RSWL is Mukesh Patel, who owns a ship-breaking company, Shri Ram Vessels Pvt Ltd, in Gujarat’s Alang. Shri Ram Vessels, in turn, holds a 49.5 per cent stake in a Mumbai realty group called Parinee Developers, among whose other partners are Gujarati businessmen Vipul Shah and Dhaval Shah.
Patel acknowledged that he had, through Parinee Developers, picked up a 10 per cent stake in the RSWL, but added that it was the Gujarat connection that had made him enter the elite IPL club. “I’m just a businessman and have absolutely no idea about the game of cricket. It is just business for me,” Patel told The Telegraph.
Patel said he had been asked to join the consortium by his friend “Mehulbhai” — Mehul Shah of Anchor — who, he claimed, owned 35 per cent in the consortium. “Mehul coaxed me to join the consortium along with my business partner Vipul Shah,” Patel said. Sources said Mehul Shah’s family was associated with Shri Ram Vessels as well. “It is well known in our trade circles that Anchor is the muscle behind Parinee through Shri Ram Vessels,” said a top realty broker in Mumbai.
Meanwhile an alleged Maoist has been arrested in Gujarat. The police on 19th March night picked up N. K. Singh, hailing from Begusarai in Bihar, from the Alang ship-breaking yard in Bhavnagar in the Saurashtra region. The Hindu reported on 22 March that he was running a labour union.
The arrest was made on the basis of the lead the police got from the mobile phone of another Maoist leader, Niranjan Mahapatra, who was arrested from Surat on 14th March. The police said the two were in close contact with each other.
Niranjan, an alleged naxalite activist from Orissa, was arrested in Pandesara area of Surat where he was living in a small house in Jagannath Nagar area for the last couple of years.
The police believed that he was trying to spread Maoist activities among the tribals in south Gujarat as well as among the diamond cutters and power loom industrial workers, both hit by the recent recessionary trend.
The police claimed that both Niranjan and N. K. Singh were members of the outlawed CPI (M-L) Janshakti and were active in Gujarat for sometime.
While conjectures of left extremism gaining ground in the State were going on for some time now, the State police on February 26 had filed a comprehensive FIR against the outlawed CPI (Maoist) to probe into the outfit's activities and the people involved in spreading its network in the State.
Four women related to KN Singh, a labour union leader of Rajkot has reportedly been arrested on 20 March because of suspected naxal links by Bhavnagar police. Superintendent of police, Rajendra Asari is tight lipped about it. Singh who was taken away by Surat police and is on remand has revealed the names of Uday Chauhan and Amit Chauhan. A police source said, that Singh has also admitted to a network and regular meetings in Malnath Hills. Not only were they active in Bhavnagar city, Uday used his contacts to recruit migrant Orissa labour in Alang ship breaking yard.
Women police were reportedly spotted picking up Singh's daughter Khushbu, who allegedly took all the documents to Uday's house to be burned in the cellar. Police have collected burned pieces of paper. This apart, wives of Singh, Uday and Amit have also been reportedly detained. Both Uday and Amit are on the run, The Times of India reported on March 22, 2010.
Apex Court to hear toxic ship cases
New Delhi/18/3/2010: Supreme Court has fixed 26 March to hear the matter concerning hazardous wastes and shipbreaking, even as International Maritime Organisation (IMO) certified Alang beach as a safe place for hazardous industrial activity like ship dismantling, one of the four persons who were injured in a fire that broke out in a ship while it was being dismantled at plot number 123 of Alang ship breaking yard has died. The accident had ahappened on 13 March, 2010. The injured were rushed to Dr DB Parikh Hospital in Bhavnagar. The condition of Lallan Singh, 32 years old from Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh who died was critical. One of the injured was a minor. The other two are namely, Ram Chandra BInd and Brij Mohan SIngh.
The site of the accident Plot No. 123 is owned by Hussain Sheth And Sons Ship Breakers Pvt. Ltd, Tele: (O) (0278)2411240, Contact Person: Dilawarbhai - 9825205287.
In the Minutes of the meeting of the Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) on ship breaking held on 04.02.2009 under the Chairmanship of Shri B.S. Meena, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser (AS&FA), Ministry of Steel, it is noted that the Coast Guard representative and the Naval HQ representative had "expressed apprehensions that the vessels coming in for beaching sometimes ply very close to the oil rigs, which could be a potential for accidents." But the representative of Directorate General of Factory Advice and Service Labour Institute (DGFASLI) explained that "they have carried out the study at Alang and found that the workers are covered and provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). He however, stated that quality of PPE was not of the requisite quality and GMB and the employers need to ensure that better quality PPE are provided to the workers. The representatives of GMB clarified that they are giving basic safety training to workers and about 8000 workers have been trained. The fatal accident rate is at present nil at Alang."
The IMC must revise its position in the light of these accidents. Earlier, six labourers were burnt alive in an engine room at Alang ship breaking yard on 4/8/2009 on plot no. 24 in the morning at Alang in the premises of Alang Auto & General Engineering Co. (P) Ltd were cutting down the engine portion of ship ‘M S Jesica’ in the world’s largest ship scrapping yard.
Such things happen in a routine manner in Alang. Union Environment Secretary headed Supreme Court-appointed committee in its report has revealed that the fatal accident rate in Alang is in the range of 2 per 1000 as opposed to 0.34 per 1000 in the mining industry (which is considered worst in the industrial sector).
Two fatal accidents have been reported from the world’s largest ship-breaking yard in May and June 2009. Evena earlier accident that occurred on the 1st June, 2009 on Plot 15 of the ship-breaking yard involved a labourer identified as Ayodhyasingh Rajput. Such fatal accident occurred at Plot 24 D in May, 2009 as well. Similar accidents were reported in earlier months and years as well.
The industrial activity must be taken off the Alang beach to protect these dying workers and the coastal environment. The currently practiced “beaching method” whereby obsolete ships are run aground on ocean beaches for cutting and breaking apart in the intertidal zone can never be accomplished in a manner which is environmentally sound or protective of human health. Careful analysis of the intrinsic characteristics of beaching operations are conclusive that no amount of prescriptive improvements or protections can remedy the four fatal characteristics of intertidal beaching operations:
1. First there is the impossibility of containing pollutants on a tidal beach where hulls of ships are often breached accidentally or by cutting, or toxic paints erode or are abraded sending persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and oils onto the beach and into the seawater;
2. Second, due to a shifting and soft wet tidal sand surface, there is the impossibility of rapidly bringing emergency response equipment, including fire-fighting equipment and vehicles, ambulances and cranes along side the ship, to assist or remove persons hurt inside the hull;
3. Third, the impossibility of allowing cranes to work alongside to lift heavy cut sections of a ship and thereby preventing heavy cut sections from being subject to gravity, shifting or falling directly into workers or into the marine environment; and
4. Finally, there is the absolute incompatibility of conducting hazardous waste management operations (which is what they are as long as ships contain hazardous wastes, in the ecologically delicate and vital coastal zone.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660, Website: www.toxicswatch.com, Blog: imowatch.blogspot.com
(a) whether the Government proposes to set up state‐of‐the‐art scanners including X‐ray or gamma‐ray scanners of the size that scan an entire cargo container at all major and minor ports of the country; and
(b) if so, the details thereof and the steps taken to meet any threat?
G K Vasan, the Union Minister of Shipping replied:
(a): Yes, Madam.
(b): At Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Customs has installed two units for scanning of containers, one mobile scanner unit installed in port and one fixed scanner unit installed in Central Warehousing Corporation’s Dronagiri Container Freight Station (CFS). There is a proposal by Department of Revenue, (Customs) to install X‐ray scanners at Chennai, Tuticorin, Mumbai and Kandla ports for which port were directed to provide land at concessional rate by this Ministry. Major ports also have proposals for installing Radio active material detector scanning equipment by 2012.
Lok Sabha Question on workers in shipping industry at major ports
15TH MARCH, 2010
WORKERS/LABOURERS AT MAJOR PORTS
2951. SHRI HUKUMDEV NARAYAN YADAV:
SHRI FRANCISCO SARDINHA:
Will the Minister of SHIPPING be pleased to state:‐
(a) the details of the grades and the number of posts of workers in each grade sanctioned in all major ports, port‐wise;
(b) the number of workers got retired and the time since when the posts are lying vacant indicating the number of vacancies filled up, port‐wise;
(c) the number of workers/labourers including casual, contract and daily wage are working at present in various major ports, port‐wise;
(d) whether the Government has received any representation from various unions
regarding participation of such workers in management and other decision of the ports; and
(e) if so, the details thereof and the reaction of the Government thereto?
MINISTER OF SHIPPING
(SHRI G.K. VASAN)
(a) to (e): The information is being collected and will be laid on the Table of the House.
Alliance for Recycling Workers
India remains a major player among suppliers by importing more than 3 million tonnes of steel scrap annually. There are more than 700 steel makers.
On March 10, under the banner of Alliance of Wastepickers which represents about 15 lakh scrap and waste collectors across India, the workers came on the street in Pune who work in the informal recycling industry ranging from garbage, paper, plastic, metal and glass to organised recycling industries. Workers in Alang too need to join hands with these recycling workers.
Odfjell sells ship for recycling
Odfjell has entered into an agreement to sell the parcel tanker MT Bow Fighter (35,100 DWT/built 1982) for recycling in India.
The sales price is close to the book value. The vessel has Green Passport and Buyers undertake that the recycling yard shall submit a working plan corresponding to IMO guidelines for ship recycling.
The Odfjell Group is a leading participant in the global market of the seaborne transportation and storage of chemicals and other speciality bulk liquids. The Odfjell fleet exceeds 90 ships, trading both globally and regionally. The tank terminal division consists of nine fully or partially owned tank terminals and nine associated tank terminals strategically located. The Odfjell Group is headquarted in Bergen, Norway and has more than 20 offices world wide. Odfjell has about 3 700 employees and an annual gross revenue of about USD 1.3 billion.
Source: Odfjell Group
Monday, Mar 08, 2010
The history of this case has been fully covered in our earlier articles but the problem which has arisen is now touted as one of definition. Despite suspicions that the vessel was polluted by noxious substances, dangerous to anyone dismantling her, and the Supreme Court’s ruling that all toxic materials must be offloaded at their point of origin before shipping to India, the local authorities seemingly designated the vessel as a wreck which relieved it of its status as a viable vessel and therefore was basically subject to salvage.
Now environmental groups are raising the pressure to have all vessels entering Indian waters declare the purpose of their visit prior to anchoring. Currently a ship can arrive uninspected and simply be grounded ashore prior to any formal enquiry into her status or contents. The ship breaking yards in the area of Bhavnagar carry great political clout and it will require an intense and prolonged campaign to regularise the industry.
National code on ship-breaking underway: Ramesh
New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) A national code on ship-breaking incorporating safety, health and environmental management issues is underway, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.
Steel ministry is preparing a blueprint in this regard, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in reply to a query.
He said guidelines to mitigate the environmental impact due to ship-breaking activities have been formulated by the Central Pollution Control Board.
Ship-breaking activities were being carried out as per a Supreme Court order taking into consideration safety, health and environmental aspects.
A Central Technical Committee, which was set up under the chairmanship of environment ministry on the order of the apex court, has given its recommendations covering all aspects of ship-breaking, the minister added.
A UN team visiting Alang recently found that the Gujarat yard had virtually no healthcare facilities and routinely violated global shipbreaking norms. The visit followed an enquiry report on December 16 by the Ministry of Environment that asked the Ministry of Steel to investigate how 200 obsolete ships, carrying fake documents, had managed to enter Indian waters post September 2007. This, said the ministry, was in blatant violation of a host of UN laws such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal and the Rotterdam Convention.
The environment ministry note followed newspaper reports about the highly contaminated US ship Platinum ii (formerly MV Oceanic, SS Independence) that continued to beach at Alang. The discarded vessel – declared dead by the US naval administration – carries hazardous waste, including 238 tonnes of asbestos-containing material and polychlorinated biphenyl and radioactive material, besides 126 used lead batteries. Platinum II is the latest dead arrival to feed Gujarat’s ship-breaking industry.
The probe also found how ship owners from the developed world were buying ‘flags of convenience’ by registering dead vessels in Liberia, Panama, St Vincent, landlocked Mongolia and Tuvalu and then, in turn, sendind them to Alang and Bhavnagar in Gujarat and other South Asian beaches. “Since the ships change hands several times, it becomes virtually impossible to trace the original ship owner. Almost 90 percent of the dead ships use these flags of convenience’,” Praveen Nagarseth, head of a shipbreaking association, told TEHELKA.
Interestingly, the Obama team is being advised by Lawrence Summers, president of the US National Economic Council, who has been actively promoting export of dead ships from the US to developing countries. He was exposed after an internal memo to the World Bank, dated December 12, 1991, got leaked. The Interpol is now tracking these illegal shipments to developing countries where an entire industry has grown around their recycling and reclamation. “It’s a highly lucrative business but there are glaring loopholes,” says Ashok Singh, an activist.
Officials of the Gujarat Maritime Board say the US agencies are yet to respond to its concern over the violation of the US Toxic Substances Control Act. Though the United States Environmental Protection Agency (usepa) penalised the rogue ship last January, the vessel was quietly allowed to move out of US waters. Could this have happened without the clearance of the US Maritime Administration? “Doesn’t it become clear from this that the Obama Adminstration favours lifting of the moratorium on such waste?” asks an activist.
Since 1982, when the yard was set up at Alang, nearly 5,000 vessels have been dismantled. In the last four years alone more than 700 dead ships arrived at Alang, where over 17,000 workers engaged in ship recycling are exposed to life-taking toxins. Troubled by the recent disclosures, an inter-ministerial committee, constituted by the Supreme Court, has asked the environment and shipping ministries and the GMB as to who should be held accountable for entry of such toxic ships. The answers are expected soon. •
TNN, Mar 13, 2010,
ALANG (Bhavnagar): Four persons were injured in a fire that broke out in a ship while it was being dismantled at plot number 123 of Alang ship breaking yard on Saturday.
"It was an accident caused by negligence on part of one of the workers who was using gas cutter to cut the ship. Apparently, the gas cutter severed the gas pipeline, triggering a spark that caused the fire," said chief fire officer of Alang PD Vyas.
The injured were rushed to Dr DB Parikh Hospital in Bhavnagar, where one of the victims' condition is said to be critical.
10 March 2009 (Kuwait) -The Basel Action Network (BAN), a toxic trade watchdog and member organization of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, warned the Government of Kuwait today that three Kuwaiti flagged ships called the Al Awdah (IMO# 9004803), Al Tahreer (IMO# 9016868), and Al Shuhadaa (IMO# 9013311) that are owned and operated by Kuwait Oil Tanker Co SAK, a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and owned by the Government of Kuwait, may very soon be exported from Kuwaiti waters destined for the shipbreaking beaches of Pakistan, Bangladesh or India in contravention of the United Nations Basel Convention. Industry insiders, as well as the trade journal database Sea-Web, lists these ships as going for scrap.
These ships are suspected of containing high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos and other hazardous wastes within their construction. Exporting these vessels for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia would be a violation of the United Nations Basel Convention, which controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, such as PCBs and asbestos and their disposal. It is illegal for a party to the Basel Convention such as Kuwait, to transport a contaminated vessel to a Basel party state, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, without prior notification and consent; it is also illegal for such vessels to be transported without a full inventory and accounting of the hazardous waste materials they contain; and finally, it is illegal to export ships to facilities that do not maintain environmentally sound management.
It is well known that the beach breaking yards of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are not capable of managing the disposal of hazardous wastes to fully protect human health and the environment. As a result, Bangladesh recently passed new legislation requiring vessels to be fully remediated of toxic materials prior to entering their waters for scrapping; India is also likely to follow suit.
"BAN calls on the Government of Kuwait, who has clear jurisdiction in this matter, to retain these vessels and uphold the principles of the Basel Convention. A government owned oil corporation exporting hazardous waste to the developing world is unacceptable," said Colby Self of the Basel Action Network.
Transfer of vessel ownership to the United Eastern Trading Company, a known cashbuyer and shipbreaker, is likely to close without delay. The vessels are believed to be at Mina Al Ahmadi (still unconfirmed as of this release) in Kuwait and could sail in a matter of hours. The vessels should be sampled for PCBs and asbestos and fully remediated prior to leaving Kuwait.
For more information contact:
Colby Self of Basel Action Network
+001 206 250 5652
Letter sent to Basel Convention Competent Authority of Kuwait
Dr. Mohammad Abdu Rahman Al-Sarawi
Environment Public Authority
P.O. Box 24395
Dear Dr. Mohammad Abdu Rahman Al-Sarawi, Competent Authority for Kuwait to the Basel Convention:
We, the Basel Action Network (BAN), and member organization of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, are writing to express grave concern that three Kuwaiti flagged ships called the Al Awdah (IMO# 9004803), Al Tahreer (IMO# 9016868), and Al Shuhadaa (IMO# 9013311) formerly owned and operated by Kuwait Oil Tanker Co SAK, a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and owned by the Government of Kuwait, may very soon be exported from Kuwaiti waters or United Arab Emirate waters destined for the shipbreaking beaches of Pakistan, Bangladesh or India in contravention of the Basel Convention. The trade journal database Sea-Web (www.sea-web.com) lists these ships as going for scrap. Thus under the Basel Convention definitions, these ships are waste.
These ships are suspected of containing high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos and other hazardous wastes within their construction. Exporting these ships to Pakistan, Bangladesh or India for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia would be a violation of the United Nations Basel Convention, which controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, such as PCBs and asbestos and their disposal. It is illegal for a party to the Basel Convention such as Kuwait, to transport a contaminated vessel to a Basel party state, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, without prior notification and consent; it is also illegal for such vessels to be transported without a full inventory and accounting of the hazardous waste materials they contain; and finally, it is illegal to export ships to facilities that do not maintain environmentally sound management. It is well known that the beach breaking yards of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are not currently able to "take all practicable steps to ensure that hazardous wastes and other wastes are managed in a manner which will protect human health and the environment".
Basel Convention Decision VII/26 states: "Noting that a ship may become waste as defined in article 2 of the Basel Convention and that at the same time it may be defined as a ship under other international rules," and additionally calls upon all Parties, with respect to ships as waste, " to fulfil their obligations under the Basel Convention, where applicable, in particular their obligations with respect to prior informed consent, minimization of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and the principles of environmentally sound management..."
Also of note, Bangladesh recently passed new legislation requiring vessels to be fully remediated of toxic materials prior to entering their waters for scrapping; India is also likely to follow suit.
The Government of Kuwait has jurisdiction over the Al Awdah, Al Tahreer and Al Shuhadaa and should treat them as waste under the definitions of the Basel Convention. The vessels should be sampled for PCBs and asbestos and fully remediated prior to leaving Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates. This is a matter of urgency as transfer of ownership to United Eastern Trading Company, a known cashbuyer and shipbreaker, is likely to close without delay and the ships could sail in a matter of hours. The vessels are believed to be at Mina Al Ahmadi, however the vessels may also be located at anchorage in the United Arab Emirates.
We reserve the right to pass this information to the global press.
The Al Awdah, Al Tahreer and Al Shuhadaa were constructed in South Korea in 1991 and 1992 and likely contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos within their construction. South Korea first enforced legislation in 1979 banning liquid PCBs in heaters with the Electricity Business Act; however PCB were allowed to be used in other materials until 1996 when they were banned by the Toxic Chemicals Control Act. Therefore, there is a strong likelihood that these vessels contain PCBs, a regulated material under the Basel Convention.
Further, asbestos was widely used as a fire-resistant insulation material in ship building yards in South Korea. Only as recently as 2009 did South Korea enact a law to prohibit the manufacture, import, and use of all asbestos. The vessels named above likely contain high volumes of asbestos within their construction.
We ask for your immediate attention and swift action to uphold the principles of the Basel Convention and retain these ships and prevent them from being delivered from Kuwait. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly.
Mr. Jim Puckett and Mr. Colby Self
Basel Action Network
Gujarat's Report on channel blockage due to US toxic ship is Bogus
Parliamentarians question Govt on Platinum II
Voluntary Groups welcome unity among ship breaking industry of India, Pakistan & Bangladesh against hazardous wastes laden ships without pre-cleaning
New Delhi8/3/2010: Now it is clear that the report of the channel blockage due to US toxic ship, Platinum II is bogus. As of today the ship breaking plots at Alang in Gujarat has about 166 ships to dismantle. In the 2009 about 260 ships were recycled, several dozen ships came to Alang in the aftermath of the arrival of Platinum II exposing the misrepresentation of facts by GMB saying that the channel has been blocked because of the dead US ship becasue it has become a wreck.
Directorate General of Shipping, Mumbai, the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India is holding a meeting on 9th March, 2010 wherein the matter of US toxic ship, Platinum II is likely to be discussed among other things like industry's position against International Maritime Organsiation (IMO)'s ship breaking/recycling convention.
In the meantime, fearing rebuke from the inter-ministerial committee and the Supreme Court for not having complied with Environment Ministry's order in the matter of contaminated US ship Platinum-II at Bhavnagar, Gujarat, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Union Ministry of Shipping is caught in a bind and has inappropriately decided to amend the Merchant Shipping Act of 1958. (Find the proposed amendment attached and available at http://shipping.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/MS%20Act650704169.pdf)
Instead of complying with the Government of India’s order dated 9.11.2009, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) by letter dated December 1, 2009 has once again created a fait accompli to out-wit the order passed by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, that the ship cannot be refloated and is defined as “wreck”. This a manifest attempt to escape indictment through linguistic corruption which has raised judicial eye brows.
Indian law with respect to wreck is laid down in Part XIII of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. The Section 2 (58) of Indian Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 defines ‘wreck’ in an inclusive manner so as to take in both ‘goods’ and ‘vessels’. The definition of wreck is vague. The term ‘vessel’, under Section 2 (55) of the Act includes any ship, boat, sailing vessel or other description of vessel used in navigation which has been abandoned without hope or intention of recovery. Thus abandonment is a prerequisite for a vessel to be treated as a wreck. The insistence on total abandonment without even a hope or intention of recovery clearly shows that a stranded vessel or a vessel that is reasonably expected to sink cannot be termed as a Wreck under the Act. This is not the case in the matter of the dead US ship.
The Act after defining Wreck elaborates on norms governing the handling of Wreck in Part XIII which also deals with salvage. Even if it gets proven that the dead US toxic ship is wreck, even then the Act provides that the Central Government may appoint a receiver to receive and take possession of the wreck and to perform such duties as envisaged under Section 391 of the Act. Clearly, GMB is motive in commiting a linguistic corruption of defining a floating hazardous waste is to use the lacunae in the Indian law relating to the handling and removal of wrecks that has been permitting the perpetrators of illegality to go scot-free and the public exchequer is burdened with the task of meeting the huge expenses for wreck removal. The owner of the dead US ship must be made liable for his acts of ommission and commission.
Notably, under the Act for a vessel to be a wreck it has to be abandoned without hope or intention of recovery. There has to be a positive act of abandonment so as to constitute a wreck and to empower the receiver to meddle with the same. In the case of a foreign vessel if its wreck or cargos are found on or near the Indian coast or are brought to any Indian port, in the absence of the master/owner, the statute under Section 399 (2) mandates that the consular officer of the country in which the vessel is registered or the cargo owners belong, shall be deemed to be the agent of the owner with respect to the custody and disposal of the articles. GMB is not revealing whether it has approached the consular officer of the country to which the dead US ship belongs.
Environmental groups have demanded inquiry into the entry of dead U.S. ship Platinum II keeping in view its antecedents and the hazardous materials that it carries and whether the clearing such a ship as wreck was/is correct and proper decision. They seek concerned Ministries of Steel, Gujarat Maritime Board and other Government Agencies to send the dead US ship-Platinum II (MV Oceanic) out of Indian territorial waters.
The attention of the Union Ministries of Environment and Forests, Steel and Shipping has been drawn towards it. Earlier, a central technical team constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests conducted inspection of ship “Platinum-II” anchored at Bhavnagar Anchorage Point and found and concluded that a ship contains hazardous wastes like ACM, PCB and Radio Active Material. It was also concluded that though a ship was of USA origin, it got last registered at Republic of Kiribati in September 2009 and the last port was Dubai.
Following the said report, the Ministry of Environment & Forests invoked the Precautionary Principle and directed that granting permission for beaching and breaking, purposes of the ship will not be advisable. It may be mentioned that precautionary principle is the basis of UN conventions, such as Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). India is a signatory to these conventions and has ratified them as well.
Officials in the inter-miniterial committee are planning an independent trans-disciplinary investigating agency to ascertain the circumstances of the dead US ship’s arrival in Indian waters, to make concerned officials accountable for their acts of omission and commission amidst 8 questions raised in the parliament with regard to the toxic US ship.
Several questions have been raised in the current session of parliament because a ship, by the name Platinum II (formerly MV Oceanic, SS Independence) has arrived in the Indian territorial waters which it contains significant quantities of toxic PCBs, asbestos, radioactive materials in its structure.
Some important facts about the said dead US ship are as follows:
(i) Platinum II (formerly, MV 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.
(ii) On 8 February 2008, after being mothballed for 7 years, MV Oceanic (later named Platinum II) 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. MV Oceanic is the last US built ocean liner to sail under the American flag.
(iii) 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 (MARAD) and sailed from Honolulu to San Francisco, arriving on 8 November 2001.
(iv) 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.
(v) MV 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 United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) that the ship was being towed to a overseas scrap yard. There were reports that the ship was destined for the scrap-yard in Bangladesh, but it has landed in Indian waters with impunity.
(vi) Global Marketing Systems, one of the last owners of the SS Oceanic (now named Platinum II) was fined $518,500 by US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) for exporting the ship for scrap without prior removal of toxins such as asbestos and PCBs.
The blatant attempt of the GMB of to frustrate the international convention, Supreme Court’s orders and the order of the Government of India, must be dealt with in a manner that sets an example. The attempts, such as one made by GMB, to allow dumping of hazardous waste under one pretext or the other, in nexus with the shipping companies which is required to be broken so that transparent decision could be taken, which protects environment and human health.
That the hazardous wastes laden US ship in question was penalized by USEPA in January, 2009 for violation of US Toxic Substances Control Act. This proven PCB laden ship has been allowed to move out of US waters in violation of the moratorium which was placed on the sale of US Government-owned ships-for-scrap to foreign yards after protests outside the US embassy in New Delhi in 1998. The moratorium was placed by the then US vice president Al Gore.
That more than 700 ships have been broken in last 4 years, Environment Ministry’s letter to Steel Ministry dated December 16, 2009 took cognizance of the possibility that “the port of registry of most of the 200 ships received at Alang have not been properly investigated before desk clearance and there has been entry of dead and toxic ships into India. Investigation of port of registry of all the dead ships that came to Alang after the orders of the Supreme Court dated 6.9.2007 and 11.9.2007, has been requested.”
Following documents related to the said dead ship- Platinum II (MV Oceanic) has been submitted to the inter-ministerial committee on shipbreaking:
1. Complaint letter of US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) against owners of Platinum-II (then known as MV Oceanic), Global Shipping LLC & Global Marketing Systems illegal distribution and export of a PCB-containing ship;
2. Press Release of US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) on the order of the USEPA on Global Shipping LLC & Global Marketing Systems;
3. Statement of the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) regarding Global Shipping LLC & Global Marketing Systems;
4. Statement of the Operations Manager, Kiribati Ship Registry, Singapore;
5. Original Sample Copy of the Kiribati Ship Registry;
6. Certificate (Fake) of Registry for Platinum-II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence);
7. News Report of The Times of India, DNA and Indian Express
The MV Oceanic (now Platinum II) has been in the headlines since 2008 when its former owners, Global Shipping LLC (GSL) and Global Marketing Systems Inc. (GMS) were charged by the US government with illegal export of PCBs for disposal and use in commerce under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA). The ship was carrying PCBs and was known to be headed for the scrapping beaches of South Asia. To avoid a court case to contest this charge, the former owners paid over one half million dollars as a settlement. After USEPA pressed charges, the owners denied that the ship was going to be sent for breaking on the beaches of South Asia as the USEPA and environmental groups feared and instead claimed it was to be reused as a ship by its new owners. The US law exists to protect other countries from the scourge of toxic PCBs but still the ship sailed away. In fact action is required to be taken by the US administration to repatriate the ship for illegal traffic.
The ships which are in fact floating hazardous wastes are allowed to anchor, beach and break without decontamination by the country of export; the antecedents of most of these ships are dubious; huge amount of lethal toxic wastes, radioactive wastes are dumped in our country and even the disposal creates serious risks of life and health to the workers and those living nearby. Dead ships which comes for dismantling is basically a waste which is end of life product and more so which has been towed. There is no inventory made either of the wastes which have been dumped nor the deaths and suffering cause to the workers.
The application that has been filed in the Supreme Court in the matter of the dead US ship has sought clarification as to whether an end - of the - life ship containing hazardous material can be exported to our country without prior de-contamination and whether such a ship can be allowed in the Indian territorial waters without our country having complete information about the antecedents of the ship, its ownership documents, complete inventory of hazardous materials embedded in the ship. Only after the complete examination of these documents, including the de-contamination of the ships done, and on granting permission that the ship should be allowed to enter in the territorial waters. The present procedure followed is extremely scary from every angle. A ship carrying hazardous material is allowed to enter in territorial waters and thereafter it sends a message that it has come for dismantling. The Authorities conduct inspection on the ship while it is anchored and invariably such a dead ship is allowed. The court has been asked to clarify this aspect in the interest of protection of environment, human health as well as from the angle of national security. The minutes of the meetings of Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship Breaking created by this Court’s order has also been submitted to emphasize the concerns on security aspects, besides other issues.
Meanwhile, environmental groups have welcomed the emergence of unanimity among the ship breaking industry of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to oppose the new International Maritime Organsiation (IMO)'s ship breaking/recycling convention which is pro-ship owners, anti-labour, anti-environment and quite regressive.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660 Web: imowatch.blogspot.com
European Commission is Investigating Margaraet Hill
Taking note of the UK's obligation to comply with Basel Convention and the European Waste Shipment Regulation and to urgently call the LNG tanker, Margaret Hill back due to false information provided by owners Fortress and Waller Marine on the vessel's further operational use, in a communication recieved from the European Commission (EC)-DG Environment, Brussels, it has been revealed that EC is investigating the case of UK's dead and toxic vessel.
Very reliable industry sources have revealed that the dead and asbestos laden ship is on its way to India from Dubai.
DEFRA, Environment Agency of UK has also been asked about the steps being taken by UK to recall Margaret Hill.
Meanwhile, the hazardous waste/shipbreaking/Platinum II/Margaret Hill matter would came up for hearing on 26 February, 2010 before the the Indian Supreme Court bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph, no wit has been posted for hearing after 4 weeks.
European Commission (EC)-DG Environment, Brussels wrote in a letter dated March 1, 2010 saying, "we would like to indicate that we are investigating the matter and have been in contact with British officials who are closely watching the situation."
It further said, "An assessment on whether a violation of EU legislation has taken place is still ongoing. While the Commission's role is to ensure that Member States properly enforce and apply EU legislation, it is the obligation of the Member States to ensure that economic operators comply with this legislation."
P.S. Toxic ship rejected by UK coming to India
Daily News & Analysis - Rakesh Bhatnagar - Feb 24, 2010
The UK must request India to deny Margaret Hill entry into its territorial waters. Moreover, under the European Waste Shipment Regulations, the European ...
Possible arrival of UK's dead and toxic vessel's arrival in Indian waters
MyNews.in - Feb 24, 2010
While the veteran Margaret Hill has been "off the radar" for a few weeks, in the past few days electronic data has showed it as positioned off the Dubai ...
NGO urges Central panel to stop entry of UK toxic ship
Indian Express - Feb 25, 2010
... the Bhavnagar coast, remains in the doldrums, another toxic waste-laden vessel — Margaret Hill — is reported to be on its way to Alang for dismantling. ...
UK warned toxic ship would be scrapped on Indian beach
The Ecologist - Feb 18, 2010
The UK Government says it is powerless to stop a toxic tanker, the Margaret Hill, being illegally scrapped in India. The vessel, which NGOs say contains ...
Fears the toxic Magaret Hill could be scrapped illegally in India
2 Mar 2010, 0000 hrs IST, ET Bureau
Representatives of ship breaking communities of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have decided to form a common front to oppose the new IMO-mandated ship recycling Convention which their respective governments are planning to ratify.
At an internal meeting held on the sidelines of a recent shiprecycling conference in Dubai, members from the three countries have exchanged ideas and are expected to chart out their future course of action in due course.
"We had an internal meeting between the three countries and decided to work together against the IMO Convention. We are also planning to make one body of the three countries to work against the new stipulation," Pravin Nagarsheth, president of Iron Steel Scrap & Shipbreakers' Association of India.
Last week, the association has submitted a memorandum to the shipping ministry repeating its demand ''that government of India should not ratify the IMO Convention on ship recycling as it is against the interests of the country. The Convention is totally one sided without any obligation on the ship owner or ship builder."
Stating that the Convention has not taken into consideration Indian points of view, itnoted that by ratifying it India has nothing to achieve except international interference.
"Whatever regulations that are needed for environmentally sound and labour safe ship recycling in the country can be implemented through national regulations - e.g., the Amendment to Gujarat Maritime Board Regulations 2003 and The Comprehensive Code on Ship Recycling being finalized by steel ministry under the directions of the Supreme Court of India," it has noted.
The guidelines being developed now under the IMO Convention intend to go much deeper which will make ship breaking by beaching method impossible, it added.
"The Ship Recycling Facility Management Plan and Ship Recycling Plan are nothing but interferences in the national activity. Future requirements under Ship Recycling Facility Management Plan may force a number of ship recycling units to be closed down," the memorandum warned.
According to Mr Nagarsheth, pressure is also being built from the industry not to rectify the Convention. "Our efforts are to involve all industry players, other than association, to sign a memorandum to the government asking it not to rectify the Convention." He said associations in Gujarat are expected to follow suit with a similar memorandum to the government.
According to him, Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) appointed committee has had several meetings with industry stakeholders to arrive at a consensus on the issue, but 'we are far from it.'
Efforts to contact concerned authorities at DGS did not yield results as they were not available.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh recyclers are feeling restless as they are badly affected by the recent government move of declaring ships as toxic waste. Because of the new stipulation, they are not allowed to bring ships for breaking without getting permissions from the exporting and importing countries.
According to reports, several vessels remain anchored off Chittagong as Customs has denied entry to ships which were not certified by the exporting country as free of toxic chemicals, as required by the new rules issued in late January.
According to government sources, it started the crackdown on February 21 only after its previous attempts of barring toxic ships from breaking beaches failed. Workers, however, fear for their livelihoods, with breaking companies halting all work for the past few days.
The yards demolish about 200 ships a year. More than a dozen ships bought for scrapping are to arrive in the next couple of weeks, while other ships are already in Bangladesh.
Ships with hazardous chemicals, asbestos, oil residues and poisonous and gas have caused casualties related to fires, explosions and poisonings in the recent past.