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

29/09/2011

Dumping of Asbestos laden Dead Chinese Ship in Indian Waters on Alang Beach

To

Smt Meera Mehrishi
Additional Secretary
Hazardous Substances Management Division
Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Government of India
New Delhi

Date 30/9/2011

Subject-Dumping of Asbestos laden Dead Chinese Ship in Indian Waters on Alang Beach
and related issues

Madam,

This is to draw your attention towards a toxic Chinese ship, Asia Union (ex MV Humber, MV Cast Otter) with IMO Number: 8015673 with some 79 deficiencies since 2010 at different ports, it is feared to be on its way to a ship-breaking yard on Alang beach for dismantling in violation of the Supreme Court’s order, UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal and Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 under Environment Protection Act, 1986. This ship was built in 1982. It is a bulk carrier with LDT: 14,436. At present the ship has the flag of Panama. Its length is 235 m.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), a research and advocacy group has learnt from sources that Global Marketing System (GMS), a US company that negotiates sales of vessels, brokered the deal for purchasing the Chinese ship in India.

I submit that TWA has been pursuing the ship breaking case in the Supreme Court. The matter was listed for hearing on 28th and 29th September, 2011.

It may be noted that in an Office Memorandum No.29-3/2009-HSMD, Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests, (HSM Division) dated 9th May, 2011 relating to implementation of Supreme Court directions in respect of ship breaking activities, it has been admitted that the issue regarding the submission of fake certificates by the ship owners/agents remains unresolved. TWA has drawn the attention of the authorities in this regard. The document is attached.

It is germane to recollect that TWA has provided documentary evidence of fake documents to the Environment Ministry which was referred to the Ministry of Steel. It wrote a letter to Shri S. Machendranathan, Chairman, Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on shipbreaking (constituted by Supreme Court’s 14th October, 2003 order) drawing his attention to non-compliance with the Court’s order and the issue of the hazardous and dead European vessel on 1st June, 2011.

It has come to light from the Office Memorandum dated May 2011 that Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF)’s Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking has suggested that since Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Customs were not able to verify the authenticity/genuineness of ship’s registry/flag in the fast in respect of some ships referred to them, this task in respect of each ship may be referred to the Directorate General Shipping, Ministry of Shipping ought to undertake such verification henceforth. The GMB officials informed MoEF that “the suggestion of the committee isacceptable to them subject to such verification by DG Shipping is done within a period of 2 working days. If no information is received from the DG Shipping within 2 working days, it will be presumed that the certificate submitted is authentic and genuine.” TWA disapproves of such presumption of genuineness of fabricated documents. It demands that documents of some 120 dead ships currently on Alang Beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat must be investigated.

The Committee observed that “at present there is no single point access to the yards and therefore, hazardous waste is being illegally dumped at various places. It was suggested to have a single point access to the yards in order stop such illegal dumping activity.”

It has come to light from the report of the site visit of the committee that they visited the existing Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facility (TSDF) site and it was observed that the existing cell is almost full. TWA has confirmed it from the sources in the ship breaking industry that the TSDF is full. The report of the site visit by SMC is attached.

Before it was filled up Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure Ltd (GEPIL), Alang Unit has been operating and maintaining Common Hazardous waste TSDF on behalf of GMB, since October’ 2005.The site was constructed and developed by GMB. GEPIL was awarded this TSDF for Operation and Maintenance through competitive Bidding Process in September’ 2005. Its total Notified Area is 7 hectares. The site is situated at Alang Ship breaking yard. It is designed to collect, transport, Receipt, Store, treat and dispose off wide range of hazardous waste. GEPIL (Alang Unit) is also associated with Sweeping, collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of Municipal wastes generated during the ship breaking activities. GEPIL (Unit Alang) has been providing its services to more than 80 industries of region. The facility receives wastes from Ship breaking and Ship recycling industrial sectors. In its myopia GMB has suggested that “they may raise the height of the embankment of the cell and compress the existing material to enhance its capacity within designed parameters. This work needs to be taken up on urgent basis to ensure that this facility is available to shipbreakers at the existing site at least for another one year.”

I submit that the creation of such facilities for hazardous wastes that originated in developed countries cannot be approved. The million dollar question is that even if this is done what happens after one year and the year thereafter. Will Bhavnagar become a Hazardous Waste TSDF capital for the ship owning companies and countries in order to appear vibrant to the developed world?

Given the emergency situation that has emerged for the GMB, the SMC informed to the stakeholders that without the TSDF facility the shipbreaking activities should not be allowed by the GPCB as per the Supreme Court directions. It is evident to TWA that the shipbreaking activity that is currently in operation is happening in the absence of TSDF, thus, in clear violation of the Court’s directions.

I submit that SMC has recommended that “ship breaking yard shall not commence breaking of the ship till such time proper decontamination certificate is issued by GPCB after thorough inspection.” This recommendation does not take cognizance of Hon'ble Court's order that reads, "(16) At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on ship-breaking at the level of the International Maritime Organisation and the Basel Convention's Technical Working Group with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous sub-stances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking." One of the fourteen Terms of Reference on which the High Powered Committee was to give its report and recommendations "Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India for breaking.” The apex court's order endorsed Basel Convention.

SMC has suggested that monitoring of asbestos in ambient air at shipbreaking yards on Alang beach “shall be commissioned by GMB for carrying out the same by a reputed institute like NIOH, as a one time study.” TWA has been demanding that asbestos cannot be handled safely or in a controlled manner. Therefore, International Labour Organisation’s resolution of June 2006 and World Health Organisation’s resolution of 2005 seek elimination of future use of asbestos. Indian workers in general and migrant workers of Alang should not be made to handle asbestos under any situation.

I wish to demand that Gujarat Pollution Board (GPCB) should be asked to make its study for sea water and sediment analysis public so that the extent of pollution at Alang beach can be comprehended.

It is also demanded that the funds collected by GMB and Steel Ministry’s Ferrous Scrap Committee (FSC) must be used for remediation and decontamination of Alang beach and for workers and villagers’ environmental and occupational health rights.
In view of the above facts, no new dead vessel should be allowed at least until the situation is remedied.

It is noteworthy that this is a 29 year-old dead ship that is likely to enter Indian maritime boundary after Bangladesh refused its entry. The ship was anchored off the coast of the southern port of Chittagong, Bangladesh on September 19, 2011.

This end of life ship is laden hazardous substances including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyl, toxic paints and chemical residues that have a wide range of adverse effects on humans, wildlife and the environment. If dismantled, the ship would expose workers and the environment to hazards.

This is to alert the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, port authorities, DG Shipping, IMC on Shipbreaking, Gujarat Maritime Board, Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and the coast guards about the hazardous ship and to urge you not to allow it enter this hazardous wastes laden Chinese ship for dumping in Indian waters in the name of dismantling.

I submit that since 1983 when ship breaking activity started on Alang beach in Gujarat, India till date, it is a journey from bad to worse. Workers on the Alang beach live in a "slave like condition".

I submit that if embargo by ship owners and ship breakers on media and external researchers is removed, the world will witness that here is a place where slavery is practiced with impunity. These migrant workers from North and East India are blatantly discriminated against by officials and ship breakers. The Alang beach has become one of the most polluted places in the world.

I wish to inform you that between January 2011 and September 2011, 27 workers died in industrial accidents. No government agency has acted to ensure and secure justice for these workers. Ship owning countries are dumping their end-of-life vessels. Such transfer of harm to South Asian beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

It is an illustration of the colossal failure of all concerned government agencies is most evident from the fact that while accident rate in ship breaking is the worst among all the industrial sectors still there is no hospital in Alang. This has been recorded in the report of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. The UN Special Rapporteur and Stefano Sensi, Human Rights Officer, UN Human Rights Council visited a number of shipbreaking yards accompanied by TWA among others. TWA is an applicant in the Supreme Court of India and has campaigned against end of life vessels like Le Clemenceau, MV RIKY (Kong Fredrick IX), SS Blue Lady (SS France, SS Norway), Platinum II (MV Oceanic, SS Independence) and many others.

It was during the Platinum II scandal that Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, the Special Rapporteur visited India. He said, “In order to ascertain the environmental impact of the shipbreaking industry, I recommend that an independent study be carried out to assess the actual and potential adverse effects that may be caused by the discharge of hazardous material into the natural environment, as well as the level of risk”. This has not been done so far.

I submit that the Special Rapporteur has noted that he was “shocked by the extremely poor conditions in which most workers live in Alang and Mumbai”. Semi-skilled and unskilled workers live in makeshift facilities lacking basic sanitation facilities, electricity and even safe drinking water. “I call on Governmental authorities to provide appropriate plots of lands, and facilitate the construction of adequate housing facilities for those who work in the yards. Adequate sanitation and drinking water facilities should also be put in place”. Special Rapporteur's report was presented to the UN Human Rights Council.

I wish to inform you that TWA, environmental and labour groups have termed the Convention on Ship Recycling/breaking adopted by International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as anti-worker, anti-environment and anti-local community. The Convention does nothing to stop dead ships like the Chinese ship in question.

It is surprising as to why the ship was never detained despite being detected with many deficiencies by Port authorities at different ports.

It has been revealed in recent times that Alang has become a fake document factory and authorities in Gujarat have stated in writing that they do not have the competence to detect fake documents. As a result dead ships like MV Asia Union are faking pre-cleaning certificates and other clearance certificates.

This is to urge you to deny entry of this Chinese ship and other such ships on environmental health grounds.

Thanking You
Yours Faithfully
Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
Tel:91-11-65663958, Fax: 91-11-26517814, Mb: 9818089660
Email:krishna2777@gmail.com, Web: imowatch.blogspot.com

Cc/
Union Minister of Shipping
Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Secretary, Union Ministry of Defence
Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs
Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Union Minister of Steel
Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests
Secretary, Ministry of Shipping
Secretary, Ministry of Labour
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests (HSMD)
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Steel
Dr Saroj, Director, Ministry of Environment & Forests
Members of Standing Monitoring Committee on Ship breaking
Dr Claude Alvares, Member, Supreme Court's Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on
Hazardous Wastes

2 comments:

  1. Asbestos cancer is actually such an unfortunate ailment, and in actual fact may well have been preventable had most people recognized back then what we know now. It's furthermore a waste that many people get irritated regarding the asbestos cancer advertising campaigns on tv, but those afflicted need to be paid out fairly IMO. Mesothelioma lawsuit

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  2. A very well written and resourceful blog. Ship Asbestos . Thanks a lot for sharing. Look forward to more articles from you.and the ship would expose workers and the environment to hazards.

    ReplyDelete