Case of illegal entry & anchorage of asbestos laden ex US Ship to be heard in apex court
Shipping Ministry says, it “does not come in picture” amidst security concerns
New Delhi July 18, 2012: Supreme Court will hear the illegal entry and anchoring of ex US Ship Exxon Valdez (currently named MV Oriental N) in Indian waters on July 19, 2012.
On July 9, 2012, Supreme Court bench of Hon’ble Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar passed the following order “I.A.61 of 2012, filed by the applicant-M/S.BEST OASIS LTD., and I.A.62/12 filed by Gopal Krishna, were taken up today for consideration.
The first application is for vacating the interim orders that have been passed earlier and the second application is for directions not to allow the ship, which is alleged to be containing toxic and hazardous material into Indian waters. Unfortunately, the pleadings are not complete in both the applications. Accordingly, let this matter stand over till 19th July, 2012. If any response is required to be filed by any of the parties to these two applications, the same should be filed by 16th July, 2012. Rejoinder, thereto, if any, may be filed by 18th July, 2012.”
Contrary to the affidavit filed by Shri Sugandh Shripad Gadkar, Deputy Director General (Technical), DG Shipping, Mumbai on July 16, 2012 stating that the Ministry of Shipping “does not come in picture”, the Minutes of the meeting of the Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) held on 04.02.2009 under the Chairmanship of Shri B.S. Meena, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser (AS&FA), Union Ministry of Steel reveal that IMC had recommended action to be taken by the Ministry of Shipping. Shri Gadkar was present in this meeting.
The minutes read: “J) 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 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. [Action: Ministry of Shipping]”
The submission saying, “the involvement of the Directorate General of Shipping and Ministry of Shipping is only academic in natural,” is not true. That at the IMC meeting on 08.07.11, Shri Gadkar, and Shri Sahdev Singh from Ministry of Shipping were present.
Even at the last IMC meeting on February 28, 2012 Capt. J.S. Uppal, Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Dept., D G Shipping, Ministry of Shipping was present.
The minutes of the meeting of the IMC held on 05-10-2009 under the chairmanship of Shri B.S. Meena, Special Secretary and Financial Adviser, Ministry of Steel points out the role of Ministry of Shipping. It reads “viii 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. A copy of the Naval HQ’s letter was also handed over to the representatives of the GMB with the direction for further follow up action, which would be reviewed in the next IMC meeting. [Action: GMB and DG Shipping]”
In pursuance of the Hon’ble Court order dated 14th October, 2003, and at the request of Ministry of Environment and Forest, “Ministry of Steel set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) vide order dated 12 -01-2004 followed by an addendum order dated 20-4-2004 under the Chairmanship of Additional Secretary and FA with members of Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Ministry of Labour, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), Central Pollution Control Board, Indian Steel Scrap and Ship breakers Association of India (ISSSAI), etc. for the implementation of Supreme Court Orders and other related functions.” It is noteworthy that Ministry of Shipping is in picture since April 2004 as part of the IMC.
IMC Minutes of June 28, 2005 reveal that officials like Shri Nanak Chand, Under Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, Shri Dilip Mehrotra, Dy CS cum Sr.DDG (Tech), D.G.Shipping, Deptt. of Shipping participated in the meeting on shipbreaking. It appears quite strange that the Ministry has been participating in IMC out of academic interest only.
After stating that the Ministry is not in picture, the affidavit makes a factually incorrect submission by referring to unauthorized inspection by Gujarat Maritime Board stating; “There was no sign of hazardous/toxic substance on board on inspecting the Ship. The Board has given no objection for beaching the ship.”
The Ministry has failed to address the issue of illegal entry of the end-of-life ship Exxon Valdez (MV Oriental N) in Indian waters off Mumbai coast and its movement from there to Bhavnagar Anchorage Point. Court’s Technical Experts Committee had filed its report giving a list of hazardous materials that are no end-of-life ships.
It is high time Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship breaking, Ministry of Steel filed its status report in the court to reveal how its recommnedations have not been complied with impunity. All the attached minutes of the IMC have been filed in the court in IA No.62.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660, Efirstname.lastname@example.org, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com