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Security Concerns from ongoing Dumping of Dead Ships at Alang Beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat
Dr Manmohan Singh
Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)
Government of India
Through Shri Ajit Kumar Seth, Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Subject- Security Concerns from ongoing Dumping of Dead Ships at Alang Beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat
Pursuant to my letter dated April 2, 2012 to Union Shipping Minister, I wish to draw your urgent attention in the matter of security concerns from ongoing dumping of dead ships at Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat that compromises maritime, environmental and national security of the country. The letter was written seeking action to stop the entry of dead US vessel, MV Oriental N (formerly Exxon Valdez, Oriental Nicety, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean).
I submit that so far 5924 dead- ships have been dumped at the Alang beach unmindful of the security concerns expressed officially at least since 2004.
I submit that Income tax raids on 3 Bhavnagar-based ship-breaking firms and their associates have unearthed black money in the form unaccounted for income to the tune of Rs 27 crore. A team of more than 200 officials on February 17, 2012 did search-and-survey operations on 40 premises in Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Mumbai and Pune. In 2010, Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) had searched 18 premises of 11 ship-breaking companies in Alang. The DGCEI did make an attempt in 2010 to regulate ship breaking activity but seemed to have come under the influence of the unprecedented strike by the industrialists of the ship breaking business.
I submit that a 2004 report of the Directorate of Naval Intelligence, Union Ministry of Defence records:"some ships arriving at the breaking yards...may be involved in nefarious activities". It noted that a large number of cash buyers are Pakistani nationals based in London and the UAE. "Due to large profit margins, the Dawood group appears to have invested heavily in cash buyers thus having a stake in most deals”. It was recorded in a letter of the Standing Monitoring Committee on Ship breaking, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests in May 2011 that the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Customs were unable to verify the records of some of the ships. It was suggested that the DG shipping be authorized to first verify records before the ships are allowed to dock at the Alang yards. But the GMB officials said this would be acceptable to them only if the DG shipping was able to carry out such verification within 48 hours or it would presume that the records provided by the ship are authentic. This matter has not been resolved as yet.
I submit that I am an applicant in the Supreme Court in the hazardous wastes/ship breaking case.
I submit that the Minutes of the Supreme Court constituted Inter-ministerial committee (IMC) and a sensitive document of Union Ministry of Defence has been filed in the court that reveal how security concerns that emanate from ship breaking activity have been expressed. The relevant excerpts from the fourteen minutes dated February 5, 2004, June 11, 2004, January 19, 2005, June 28, 2005, February 1, 2006, September 21, 2006, January 1, 2007, August 9, 2007, February 28, 2008, February 4, 2009, October 5, 2009, October 5, 2010,September 17, 2010 , July 8, 2011 and February 28, 2012 are given below.
I submit that the minutes of 14th meeting of February 28, 2012 refers to “Security concerns” but does not reveal what has been the response to the several recommendations of IMC in the earlier meetings. The relevant part of the minutes of its 13th meeting reads: “Security concerns: The representative of Coast Guard brought to the notice of IMC that various foreign made communication equipment like emergency beacons brought on board of the ships and taken to breaking yards are not properly deactivated before dismantling the ships. The Coast Guard expressed concern from security angle as there were a few incidents of false alarms emanating from such equipments….” The issue of “false flag certification” was also raised.
I submit that “It was also clarified by GMB that the requisite information would also be sent to MOD” in the minutes. Subsequent to this the minutes of the 14th meeting does not reveal whether Ministry of Defence has been sent information that was promised.
I wish to draw your attention towards the minutes of the 12th meeting. It reads: “Security Concerns – In the last meeting, it had been decided that the Ministry of Shipping would organize a meeting on security matters with GMB, Naval HQ and Coast Guard HQ, Customs etc. to ensure that issues linked to gaps in the security frame-work are addressed on a priority basis. The representative of Naval HQ informed that they have already taken up the matter with the DG Shipping on 3 September 2009 highlighting the necessary precautionary security steps, including a monthly security meeting to be conducted by the Yard/Port Authority. The representative of the DG Shipping informed that the suggestions of the Naval HQ have been conveyed to the Gujarat Maritime Board.” It is not clear whether the suggestions of the Naval Headquarters have been acted upon.
I submit that the minutes of 11th meeting of IMC reads: “Security Concerns – The Coast Guard representative brought out some security concerns and incidents of communication sets from ships reportedly finding their way to the local fisherman.”
I submit that these concerns cannot be taken lightly. The minutes of the IMC meeting reads: “Security Concerns – Both the representative of the Coast Guard and the representative from Naval HQ raised concerns over the entry of ships carrying hazardous cargo to Alang for ship breaking and how no information is made available to them regarding the movement of ships to Alang. Besides this there was no information regarding whether the Alang Port is compliant with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. In the context of the present security concerns in the country, the Chairman advised the representative of the Ministry of Shipping, the GMB officials, the Coast Guard representative and the Naval HQs to address the issue expeditiously so that the security gaps are taken care of and also to verify whether the port at Alang has implemented the ISPS codes.” The entry of dead ships in Indian waters with fake documents reveals that security gaps have not been addressed.
I submit that IMC minutes reads: “Security concerns 16. Representatives of Naval Headquarter pointed out that because of large floating population at Alang it has become a breeding ground for mafia and other anti national elements who are indulging in nefarious activities. He further pointed out that sometimes vessels moving to Alang for breaking do not carry sufficient fuel and may also be not sea worthy. This may cause serious accidents at sea if such vessels are drifting in areas closer to oil field development areas. He therefore requested that there should be strict enforcement of account ability of ships reporting at Alang and the port authorities must share information with intelligence agencies. Further Naval Headquarters should also be informed about war ships and ships with sensitive cargo coming to Alang for ship breaking.” The radioactive wastes laden dead ships and war ships are indeed a matter of huge security concern.
I submit that the minutes of the another IMC meeting reads: “The Coast Guard representative and the Naval HQ representative also expressed apprehensions that the vessels coming in for beaching sometimes ply very close to the oil rigs, which could be a potential for accidents. Though the representative of the DG, Shipping clarified that the ships are to ply on pre-determined chartered routes, it was emphasized that the preventive measures on such matters need to be strengthened and ensure due compliance by all. The Chairman directed that the Ministry of Shipping may organize a meeting on the matter with GMB, Naval HQ and Coast Guard HQ, Custom etc. immediately and ensure that gaps in the security frame-work issues are addressed immediately.” There is a need to examine whether gaps in the security frame-work issues have been addressed as recently as during 2011-12 when 415 dead ships were dumped at Alang beach.
Let me take the opportunity to inform you that the May 3, 2012 order of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar bench of Supreme Court in the matter of a US hazardous dead vessel named 'Oriental Nicety' (formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean) that was trying to enter Indian waters at Alang beach Bhavnagar has sought compliance with UN’s Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal to which India is a party. This has vessel has been renamed as MV Oriental N, Gujarat.
I submit that The Washington Post news report, “The many lives of the Exxon Valdez”, March 29, 2012 disclosed that the vessel is on the way to Alang beach. It may be noted that in the year 2000-2001, the buyer of the vessel and the owner of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd, Shri Sanjay P Mehta has been in the ship recycling business as he was engaged with “MARUTI METALS, LLC” in the US as a advisor at the recycling Site at Brownsville, Texas. It was involved in the dismantling of United States Adventure, a US Navy vessel as per the requirements of US Maritime Administration [MARAD] an agency within the US Department of Transportation. After the entrepreneurs of the "MARUTI METALS LLC" decided to close their business in US, Shri Mehta moved to India to further continue his recycling business in Alang-Sosiya, Gujarat India. Its 100% subsidiary, Best Oasis Limited, a newly formed company and a part of "Priya Blue Group" which is a "CASH BUYER" that purchases vessels on "As is Where is basis" to deliver the same for ship dismantling at Alang beach at the convenience of ship owners from developed countries. Hongkong based Best Oasis Limited is a purchaser, seller and financer of end-of-life ships.
I submit that it is a second such ship originally from USA that is outwitting Indian laws. The USA’s regulations and European Union regulations prohibit the entry of such vessels. 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, the previous dead and convicted US ship, Platinum II (Ex SS Oceanic, MV Oceanic) was denied beaching permission but it remained in Indian waters without beaching. It had left US waters despite indictment by US Environment Protection Agency with the apparent connivance of MARAD. It had entered Indian waters on fake documents.
I submit that the end-of-life ship 'Oriental Nicety' was purchased in March 2012 by a US based company Global Marketing Systems (GMS), which is one of the biggest, cash buyers for dead ships. It was sold to Best Oasis Company for about $16 million. The Bill of Sale of the ship alone can reveal its true or latent value. This 301 meters long tanker is 50 meters wide, 26 meters depth, weighing 30,000 tons empty and powered by a 23.60 MW diesel engine. US based National Steel and Shipbuilding Company built this tanker for Exxon Mobil Corporation, a US multinational oil and gas corporation and a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. It was built in San Diego, California in 1986.
I submit that the GMS was involved in the purchase of controversial radioactive and hazardous waste laden European ship SS Blue Lady (ex-SS Norway, SS France) and was also involved in the Blue Lady case and the dead hazardous US ship Platinum II (ex-MV Oceanic, SS Independence). Platinum II was indicted by US Environmental Protection Agency. This ship was denied beaching permission by Union Ministry of Environment & Forests but the Ministry’s intent was outwitted as the dead ship remained in Indian waters and was illegally scrapped at Gopnath anchorage point in Bhavnagar Gujarat.
In the past 23 years, the dead US vessel MV Oriental N (formerly Exxon Valdez, Oriental Nicety, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean) has been renamed several times. It has worked in at least three areas of the world since it ran aground on Bligh Reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound in March 1989. The 30,000-ton tanker ruptured eight of its 11 oil-storage tanks and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the ecologically rich area. Exxon Mobil spent $30 million to repair the single-hulled ship and moved it to its Mediterranean routes after the US banned the ship from Alaskan waters and a law was passed requiring double hulls on oil tankers.
I submit that the USA which is a non-party to Basel Convention appears to be testing the robustness to the regulatory regime. If a bad precedent is set by allowing this dead US ship, Indian waters will be flooded with hundreds of dead ships both of military and military origin in the aftermath of the lifting of moratorium on transfer of toxic ships to developing countries by US Government.
I submit that a letter to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism & Culture informing it about a letter of Shri Rajgopal Sharma, Advisor, Indian Embassy, Brussels dated December 20, 2011 wherein it has been revealed that most of the dead and hazardous ships that are currently at Alang beach are in illegal traffic. The letter was based on Shri Sharma’s conversation with Shri Julio Garcia Burgues, Head of the Waste Management Unit, European Commission – DG Environment. The letter reveals that even EU is trying to transfer its dead ships to India.
In view of the above facts, there is a compelling logic for CCS to intervene earnestly to set matters right before it is too late.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Phone: +91-11-26517814, Fax: +91-11-26517814
Members of Cabinet Committee on Security, Government of India
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism & Culture
Chairman, National Advisory Council, Government of India
Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs
Secretary, Union Ministry of Finance
Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs
Secretary, Union Ministry of Defence
Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping
Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel
Secretary, Union Ministry of Law & Justice
Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat