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Ban on Dumping of Hazardous Obsolete Ships in Indian Waters

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, August 04, 2011 | 10:23 PM

To

Dr Manmohan Singh
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA)
Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)
Government of India
New Delhi

Through Cabinet Secretary, Government of India

Subject-Ban on Dumping of Hazardous Obsolete Ships in Indian Waters

Sir,

This is to draw your immediate attention the entry of unmanned 21-year-old and 2,000-tonnne vessel MT Pavit with flag of Panama entered Indian waters in an apparent collaboration with the UK and US Defence agencies. Is it a coincidence that MV Rak Carrier that was built in 1984 with IMO NO 8106745 and has reportedly drifted about 20 Miles Off Mumbai on 4th August, 2011 also has a Panama flag?

The papers relied upon to prepare this letter are attached.

I wish to inform you that the vessel MT Pavit was built in Japan in 1990. It has flags of Comoros, located off the eastern coast of Africa and Panama southernmost country of Central America. It was last dry docked in August 2010.

I submit that M.V. “Global Purity” with a Panama flag reportedly had a collision on 23/3/2010 at Mumbai port. M.V. “MSC Chitra” which reportedly had a collision on too had flag of Panama at Mumbai port on 7/8/2010. The Panama flag merits probe.

I wish to draw your attention towards our Ministry of Defence's statement issued on July 31, 2011 stating, “Coast Guard MRCC (Mb) received information from MRCC Falmouth on 29 Jun 11 regarding drifting of MT PAVIT 110 nm from Ras al Madrakah Oman coast due to engine failure and ingress of water in engine room. Subsequently MT Jag Pushpa flagged India was diverted by UK MRCC to render assistance. MT Jag Pushpa rescued all 13 crew and brought to Sikka (a port in Gujarat). On 31 Jul 11 at about 1200 hrs Coast Guard Region Headquarters (West) received telephonic information from Juhu police regarding grounding of MT Pavit off Versova beach opposite Ruia park / Chandan cinema” in Mumbai. It reveals that the vessel has been drifting since June 29, 2011. The statement informed that “Coast Guard ship Amrit Kaur and helicopter ex 842 Sqn (CG) were deployed for preliminary assessment. The vessel was assessed to have been grounded at Juhu beach without any apparent damage. The vessel is double bottom and is having 10 mt Fuel oil and 10 mt Gas oil. (30 metric ton according to DG Shipping). Owner of vessel intimated vessel was reported sunk immediately on abandoning on 30 Jun / 01 Jul 11. The company is in the process of engaging salvor for removal of vessel from beach.”

The question is: when did it leave Sikka port and when it left the port was it with the crew or without crew? Who issued the port clearance at Sikka port. How it came to Sikka and how it left the port? The statement of the owner has been found to be untruthful by the officials too.The traceability of owner is a question, on behalf of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), I have raised the issue repeatedly with concerned authorities but no action has been taken.

In another statement dated 31st July, 2011, Directorate General Shipping stated, “Today afternoon, this Directorate was informed that this vessel was seen drifting off the 7 bunglows beach area. Immediately, the coast guard and Navy were alerted and more information being gathered. The vessel's name is MT Pavit (IMO No. 9016636), 999 tons GT, Flag Panama type product tanker, classed with RINA and built 1990 ran aground off Versova Beach in position 19 07.11N / 072 45.9E. The Owners of the vessel are reported to be M/s Pavit Shipping Lines, Dubai, and Managers are Ms Prime Tankers LLC, Dubai. MT PAVIT was reportedly abandoned off Oman Coast on the 29th of June. 13 crew members, all Indians were on board who were rescued by a ship of Great Eastern shipping and a US naval warship on 29th June 2011 and brought to Kandla port. The vessel is reported to be without cargo. However, she is reported to have a total of about 30 MT of fuel/diesel/Lube oil. ETV Smit Lumba has already moved towards the MT Pavit to render emergency towing operations. This Directorate would carry out the statuatory inquiry to this incident.”

The question is: When the ship was abandoned “off Oman Coast on the 29th of June” then how did it come to Sikka? Whether the ownership of the ship was verified at the port. What was the purpose of the ship to come to Kandla, which is not a port for oil cargo. Before leaving Kandla, what cargo did it discharge and what cargo was loaded on it for the voyage. When it left Kandla did, the vessel get port clearance? When did the vessel become unmanned?.

I submit that so far Indian Ministry of Defence or Directorate General Shipping has not been able to disclose that UK’s Ministry of Defence rescued MT Pavit vessel as per its report dated 1st July, 2011. The question that remains undisclosed is: who is the owner of the real owner of this abandoned ship. (Statement from UK’s Ministry of Defence is attached). How did it reach Indian waters after its rescue by one of the ships of UK’s Royal Navy ship named HMS St Albans? This merits high level probe.

In a related statement dated 2nd August, 2011 from DG Shipping says, “A review meeting by the Directorate General of Shipping in the capacity Maritime Assistance Service (MAS) was held with the key Coastal State Authorities namely Indian Coast Guard, Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), the charterers, the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), including the managers representative (Prime Tankers, Dubai), Local Correspondent of P & I Club and salvage companies showing expression of interest” wherein “The owners and manager i.e Prime Tankers has sent their representative to participate in the review meeting today. The Directorate has directed the owner / manager Prime Tankers to confirm their action plan to remove /salvage the grounded vessel immediately. The owners / managers were advised to seek the salvage services either from managers of the ETV or make their own arrangements at their cost, risk, and consequences. In the event of no response from the owner / manager, the Directorate General of Shipping can invoke Section 356 K of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 and take up salvage operations with cost being recovered from the owner / manager. The local P & I club correspondent stated that the vessel is not having valid P & I cover against third party liabilities.”

It further states, “The District Administration has also been requested to issue notice to the owner, manager and underwriters etc. under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 as this vessel is become public nuisance. The investigation by the Police Authorities under Section 336 of the Indian Penal Code is in progress. The Flag Administration of the ship Panama and the Coastal Authority of Oman are being notified that the vessel has not sunk as reported earlier and therefore, they would be requested to conduct investigation under the relevant International Law and share vital information and findings in respect of safety of navigation and other related issues with the Indian Administration. The Indian Maritime Administration, District Authority including MMB and Indian Coast Guard are concerned about the safety of the ship and any damage to the Marine environment. In view of this, continuous monitoring is in progress and efforts are on for earliest removal of the ship.”

I submit that the ship must be sent back to the country of its origin at the cost of the owner to set an example for such culprits in future.

It has been reported that it is inexplicable as to how the Navy, responsible for security beyond 12 nautical miles; the Coast Guard, which patrols the zone between 5 and 12 nautical miles; and the newly created maritime police failed to detect the entry of this foreign vessel in Indian waters and it entered undetected by the three-tier security ring. Now it appears clear that the vessel was brought to Indian waters in close collaboration between the UK Ministry of US Defence Administration.

In a similar fashion, Singapore-flagged MV Wisdom (IMO Number: 8417558) had got stuck on Juhu beach, Mumabi in June, 2011. The vessel was successfully tugged away from Juhu beach on July 2 and resumed its journey to Alang beach, Gujarat where it reached on 19th July, 2011. There is need to examine its history and liability too. This vessel underwent 14 name changes in her life and no one knows how many owners. Is it not a reason to suspect its antecedents?

I submit that the corporate veil of M/s. Delta Shipping Marine Services, Qatar, owner of MV Rak Carrier, M/s Pavit Shipping Lines, Dubai, owner of MT Pavit, owner of MV Wisdom which was purchased by a consortium of Indian ship breakers in Singapore must be pierced to set matters right.

I submit that ships are routinely abandoned by unscrupulous ship owners when they have reached end-of-life or have become sea worthy or when they are dubious in order to hide the identity of the ship owning companies and to save them from its potential liability. Interpol's Environmental Crime and Pollution Crime Units may also be approached in this regard.

It is germane to pay attention to the minutes of a meeting of Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC), “Security concerns” about obsolete foreign ships entering Indian waters were expressed. The minutes dated on 8th July, 2011reads: “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 Chairman, IMC directed the Customs representative and SRIA to take note of the concerns of the Coast Guard and ensure that all such equipments are properly deactivated.” Earlier, a 2004 report of the Directorate of Naval Intelligence filed in the Supreme Court recorded that "some ships arriving at the breaking yards...may be involved in nefarious activities". The report had warned, "Apparently, 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 noted that this "can lead to clandestine collection of data, survey of seabed and coastal area, weather and meteorological data and for dropping and picking agents". The report had recommended that Ministry of Defence must give clearance to all such ships but this has not been complied with.

Among others G.K. Panda of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), Mumbai, Cmdr Palvinder Singh, Joint Director (Security), Ministry of Defence (Navy), Cmdt H. Nautiyal, JD (FE), Indian Coast Guards Headquarters, New Delhi and S.S. Gadkar of DG Shipping, Mumbai were present at the meeting. The 13th meeting of the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on ship breaking was held under Chairmanship of Shri S. Machendranathan, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser, Ministry of Steel & Chairman, IMC on Ship Breaking at Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

The minutes read: “Regarding the concerns raised on false flag certification, the DG, Shipping representative suggested to all concerned to check up the database available with the website, ‘equasis.org.’ and to approach the DG, Shipping if details are not available therein, for exceptional reporting cases. It was also clarified by GMB that the requisite information would also be sent to MOD.”

It is noteworthy that “Equasis only shows ships in service.” The fact that M V Pavit is not revealed on this website too shows that the vessel was decommissioned, was end-of-life or abandoned to escape liability environmental liability. Essentially, such vessels are hazardous wastes which are transferred by industrialized and ship owning countries and their companies to developing countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in blatant violation of Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal with impunity. It is also applicable to to hazardous wastes and other wastes generated on board ships . US is not a party to this Convention and EU and UK are undermining this hard earned UN law by supporting IMO’s Hongkong Convention on ship recycling/dismantling which is unlikely to come into force. EU and UK by downplaying their own legislations in order to facilitate transfer of hazardous wastes laden end-of-life vessels and are indulging in linguistic corruption in the Free Trade Agreements under negotiation to this end.

“Any transboundary movement (TBM) that takes place without the pertinent notifications to all the States concerned or the consent pursuant to the Convention, or when such consent is obtained through falsification, misrepresentation or fraud, it is considered illegal traffic under the Basel Convention . Illegal traffic also occurs when the transboundary movement does not conform in a material way with the documents or when it results in the dumping of hazardous wastes or other wastes in violation of the Convention and of general principles of international law. The fact that Parties (to the Convnetion) consider that illegal traffic is a crime says a lot about how serious the international community is to ensure that the TBM and ESM (environmentally sound management) requirements of the Convention are respected.”

TWA demands that no ship whether for dismantling or for shipping or in disguise of accidental snapping of towing cable of vessels be allowed in Indian waters without the name of Port of Registry, Name and address of ship owner, IMO registered owner identification number and IMO company identification Number unless this is done no seller will be traceable. (Refer to Appendix 4 of Hongkong Convention, page no. 39). As an applicant in the Supreme Court in a related matter of hazardous wastes/shipbreaking, TWA has repeatedly written to the IMC and other concerned agencies regarding the same.

TWA demands that all the details regarding the probe in the matter of MV Wisdom be put on website and the information regarding inquiry with deadlines in the matter M V Pavit be put on website for transparency because it is apprehended that there are some senior government officials who have mastered the art of collusion with transnational ship owning companies to allow obsolete vessels in the Indian waters. TWA had disclosed 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, wherein it has been admitted that the issue regarding the submission of fake certificates by the ship owners/agents remains unresolved. (Site Report attached)

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 is acceptable 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.” The recent incidents have shown that it is applicable to ships entering Mumbai coast zone as well.

While in a routine reaction, the Directorate has ordered statutory inquiry into these incidents, this not sufficient. A Group of Ministers on Corruption should examine the flourishing Black Economy in the matter end of life and abandoned vessels at the behest of ship owning countries and companies. The role of flag states must be investigated under the prevailing national and international law.

I submit that US toxic ship Platinum although indicted by US Environmental Protection Agency was dumped in India despite objection from Indian Environment Ministry following my complaint and documentary proof of forged documents due to apparent indulgence of some in Ministry of Shipping and Gujarat Maritime Board.

I submit that such presumption of genuineness of fabricated documents must be rejected urgently. I suggest that the documents of more than 100 ships that have entered or have been sunk must be investigated and their ownership be traced. This could be the first step in securing our environmental and maritime security which has been compromised by hazardous wastes traders and other vested interests.

I will be happy to share all the documents based on which I have made the above submissions.

Thanking You

Yours Faithfully
Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480
E-mail:krishna2777@gmail.com
Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com, imowatch.blogspot.com

Cc

Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Chairman, Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider measures that
can be taken by the Government to tackle corruption, Member, CCEA and CCS

Shri A.K. Antony, Minister of Defence, Member, CCS, CCEA, Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider measures that can be taken by the Government to tackle corruption

Shri P. Chidambaram, Minister of Home Affairs, Member, CCS, CCEA and Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider measures that can be taken by the Government to tackle corruption
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