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Govt agencies colluding or too weak to regulte dumping of obsolete ships in Indian waters?

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, June 20, 2013 | 11:05 PM

Note:Hazardous waste follows the path of least resistance. These end-of-life ships are ending up in Indian waters because Indian regulators are either colluding or are too weak to regulate the multinational shipping companies. Role of officials in Ministry of Shipping merit examination in such incidents. The connivance with regard to transfer of end-of-life ships create a logic for ensuring that the ministry is not made the focal point for ship breaking and allied activities.     

Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)


Jun 21 2013

 With 40 ships, some carrying hazardous material, stranded off the Indian coast, Union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has proposed a corpus fund for salvage operations. 

On her maiden visit to Mumbai after becoming minister for environment and forests last year, she discussed the proposal with representatives of the ministry of shipping, Indian Navy, directorate general of shipping and Coast Guard Thursday. "We concluded a corpus fund is necessary. Forty ships are stranded along the Indian coast. We need to establish a corpus between the ministries of shipping and environment and forest as we cannot wait for funds from companies willing to rescue the ships," Natarajan said. "I will talk to the Prime Minister and the defence ministry and establish the corpus." 

Natarajan said Maharashtra put together a corpus in 2010 to salvage MT Pavit and was getting the money reimbursed through litigation. She also discussed a system to respond to mishaps involving such ships causing loss of livelihood and damage to environment and reviewed standard operating procedures put in place by the shipping ministry and Coast Guard. 

Oil tankers MT Pratibha Tapi and Pratibha Indrayani are anchored near Mumbai. Natarajan said officials had assured her the situation was under control and not much hazardous material was on board the vessels. She also met representatives of oil marketing firms and told them to replace old pipelines to prevent erosion.
"After two-three accidents, we have decided to review the status of 1,000 km of oil and gas pipelines — some in sea, some above ground, on private lands and roads to prevent further environmental damage." Gautam Chatterjee, director general of shipping, said: "A fund to salvage stranded ships is being considered. Getting money from owners is difficult. The environment minister sought views on this and there was consensus. We did not go into details of amount required."

June 21, 2013
Indian Express

40 vessels stranded off Indian coast, says Jayanthi Natarajan
 Jun 20, 2013,  PTI

The minister, however, insisted for strong environmental laws to deal with shipping vessels that damage India's fragile coastal eco-system, including provisions for establishing criminal liability.

About 40 vessels are apparently stranded off Indian coasts, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said in Mumbai on Thursday.
"But the matter is under control. We have a strict regime, we, the ministry of shipping...and if that doesn't work, we will invoke the Environment Protection Act," Natarajan told reporters in Mumbai.
"Ministry of shipping and coast guard ensures that no vessel enters the Indian territory. It is ensured that they have proper insurance cover, particularly if they are of a certain age," Natarajan said.
All posts have the machinery to ensure that the radioactive material does not enter our territory. And that equipment is functioning very well, she said.
If it sometimes escapes, the ports have the procedure to deal with and dispose it in a safe way, she added.
"There is a need to make sure there is a corpus and that we have the forecasting systems for future oil spills in place," she said.
"We need to establish a common corpus between the ministry of shipping, the coast guard and the environment authorities so that we don't wait for money. We cannot wait until the claim process is complete to start salvage operations," the minister said.
It is important for the government to maintain a corpus, a fund where immediately salvage operations can begin.
"I specifically requested information about two ships which are currently two miles and 10 miles away from Mumbai coastline. I have been assured that the matter is within hand and that there is not too much petroleum on board the ships," she said.
The ministry of shipping has ensured that with their own barges and equipment, the ships are kept stable and operational and now the new owners will take responsibility, she said.

Natarajan favoured setting up of a corpus fund to aid quick response to fight oil spills off the Indian coast. In recent past, there have been frequent incidences of crude oil leakages due to breakdown of ships and leakage from pipelines operated by oil companies in west coast.

The minister held wide ranging consultations with all stakeholders in Mumbai and reviewed the status of present safety systems adopted by concerned agencies.

The cleaning operation after the oil spills often got delayed due to lack of clarity about who would fund it.
She said a corpus fund would come in handy under such circumstances and the cleaning up operation could begin immediately, thereby limiting damage to the environment. The outgo from the fund would be reimbursed once the compensation liability is established and claims settled.

"This is a good proposal, the corpus size and the pattern of funding will be finalised after holding consultations with stakeholders and discussing the matter with the Prime Minister," the minister said.
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had some experience in this regard, acquired while dealing with multiple oil slicks during 2010, she said, adding that the state model will be studied further.

Shipping authorities have been monitoring the entry and exit of ships in Indian waters by following well laid out guidelines.

The minister, however, insisted for strong environmental laws to deal with shipping vessels that damage India's fragile coastal eco-system, including provisions for establishing criminal liability.

Natarajan also asked the Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards to review the status of existing pipeline networks at major ports to identify vulnerable areas that would need replacement or upgrading.

She also asked the oil companies to upgrade their existing pipelines with monitoring systems like Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition to regularly monitor the health of pipelines.



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