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Union Environment Minister promises action on end-of-life toxic Danish ship

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, December 24, 2014 | 5:04 AM

UN Human Rights agencies making inquiry on movement of Danish ship

European Commission’s complicity allows movement of the toxic Danish ship from the European waters into Indian waters  

So far some 500 migrant workers of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand & Odisha killed on Alang beach

December 24, 2014: Responding to the petition for action in the matter of end-of-life toxic Danish ship MV Clipper (IMO No. 9232319) currently in Bhavnagar waters, Gujarat owned by Christian Stadil, a noted Danish businessman, Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change has responded promising action saying, he “Will do the needful.” India’s Environment Ministry is the Focal Point and the Competent Authority under the UN’s Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal.
In a related development, a Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Baskut Tuncak have initiated inquiries on the movement of ships that endanger lives of migrant workers in Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat with specific reference to the Danish ship in question. Notably, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu had visited Alang in the past. Officially, some 500 migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have been killed in the ship breaking yards at Alang beach, Gujarat from 1983 till December 2014.   

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), “Hazardous wastes belong to the category of special wastes having constituents of chemicals, metals and other compounds which can cause environmental pollution. In order to regulate and ensure environmentally sound management of the hazardous wastes, the Govt. of India notified the Hazardous Wastes (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The Government of India has ratified the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal (under the aegis of UNEP).” The end-of-life ships are hazardous wastes as well.

Under the Basel Convention, Focal Point, the Union Environment Ministry receives and submits information to the Secretariat as provided for in Convention’s Articles 13 and 16 e.g. identification of cases of illegal traffic; national reports; notifications of national definitions and import/export restrictions and Competent Authority  communicates with one another: they are responsible for receiving notifications of transboundary movements and any related information and for responding to such a notification. They usually have a role at the national level for preventing and combating illegal traffic. Competent Authority sometimes also communicates with the Basel Convention Secretariat.  The eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention had adopted a revised harmonized form for notifications of their contacts to the Secretariat in May 2013. This has been for done for synergy among UN treaties like Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention and Stockholm Convention for processing information about hazardous wastes and other wastes, toxic chemicals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These treaties are relevant for the the Danish ship in question as well.

The transfer of the Danish ship fails to reflect compliance with Basel Convention’s core  obligation - minimisation of transboundary movements of hazardous waste, and as such will not prevent hazardous wastes such as asbestos, PCBs, old fuels, and heavy metals from being exported to the poorest communities and most desperate workers in developing countries. It fails to end the fatally flawed method of dismantling ships known as “beaching” where ships are cut open on tidal flats. This is required because on a beach it is impossible to contain oils and toxic contaminants from entering the marine environment; safely use cranes alongside ships to lift heavy cut pieces or to rescue workers; bring emergency equipment to the workers or the ships and protect the fragile coastal environmental zone from the hazardous wastes on ships. It allows hazardous substances from end-of-life ships to enter India outwitting the motive of the Basel Convention and leaving a toxic legacy for generations to come.

The movement of the Danish ship under the flag of Bahamas (a flag of convenience) is in violation of Basel Convention to which India is a party. It is also in violation of relevant European law by which it is governed.

If concerned government authorities in India allow entry to this Danish ship it will tantamount to grant of legal recognition to externalization of the real costs and liabilities of ships at end-of-life by the shipping companies of Europe and other developed countries.

The letter dated 15 April, 2005 authored by Ms Connie Hedegaard, the then Denmark's environment minister to her Indian counterpart Shri A Raja about the illegal movement of a 51 year-old asbestos laden ship, Kong Fredrick IX underlines it. Ms Hedegaard is currently the European Commissioner for Climate Action. European Commission’s complicity in allowing the movement of the end-of-life toxic Danish ship MV Clipper (IMO No. 9232319) from the European waters into Indian waters is quite stark.  

This dead Danish ship MV Clipper Concord (IMO No. 9232319) offers an opportunity to set matters right and undo the damage done during Raja’s tenure.

The union environment minister responded in writing on December 23 in response to letters dated December 22 and December 16, 2014 from ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) addressed to him besides Ministries of Shipping and Steel.

The letter raised the issue of verification of authenticity of documents of Danish end-of-life toxic ship MV Clipper (IMO No. 9232319) in Bhavnagar waters & compliance with Ship Breaking Code, Supreme Court’s order and Basel Convention given the fact that the phenomena of fake documents is rampant in Alang in particular and shipping industry in general.

TWA has reliably learnt that Customs officials boarded the ship from on December 23 and it was expected to be boarded by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Gujarat Pollution Control Board and other concerned officials. The Port Officer is likely to get all the relevant paper by tomorrow for scrutiny.

TWA has repeatedly been informed that most of these officials do not have the competence to verify the authenticity of documents. This was officially demonstrated in the past by TWA and the same has officially been acknowledged but no remedial measures have been taken so far.

After TWA’s complaint standing monitoring committee on ship breaking yards, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and officials of Hazardous Substances Management Division undertook a site visit and submitted a report requesting Directorate General of Shipping, Union Ministry of Shipping to develop procedure for scrutiny of ship's certificates.

The relevant part of the report of the standing committee reads: “The issue regarding the submission of fake certificates by the ship owners/agents came up for discussion. The committee members suggested that since GMB/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 DG Shipping under the Ministry of Shipping to do such verification henceforth. GMB has reported that they will consult this matter with their senior officers and revert back to MoEF within 7 days.  Subsequently, 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.” Such callous approach of GMB is quite alarming merits serious attention and probe.

The members of the Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking comprised of (1) Dr. M. Subba Rao, Director, MoEF, (2) Shri B. R. Naidu, Scientist-D and Zonal Officer, CPCB, Vadodara (3) Shri B. D. Ghosh, Addl. Industrial Adviser, Ministry of Steel, (4) Capt. J. S. Uppal, Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Department, DG Shipping, (5) Dr. S. R. Tripathi, Asstt. Director, NIOH, and (6) Dr. R. R. Tiwari, Scientist-C, NIOH. The list of participants in the meeting of Standing Monitoring Committee held at Bhavnagar included Dr. Subba Rao,     Capt. Uppal, Mr Ghosh, Mr Naidu, Dr Tripathi, Dr Tiwari, Capt. S. Chadha, Port Officer, Alang, Atul Sharma, Environment Engineer, GMB, Alang, N. V. Pandya, Director, Safety & Training, GMB, Alang, A. V. Shah, RO, GPCB, Bhavnagar, V. R. Patel, Sr. EE, GPCB HO, Gandhinagar, D. J. Mehta, Asstt. Commissioner of Labour, Alang, J. D. Goswami, DEE, GPCB, Bhavnagar, M. M. Parmar, GMB, Alang, R. P. Gupta, DEE, GPCB, Bhavnagar, B. R. Kunadia, SSA, GPCB, Bhavnagar, J. R. Sharma, Supdt., Customs, Alang, R. B. Makwan, JSA, GPCB, Bhavnagar, Pravin S. Nagarsheth, ISSAI, Mumbai, Vishnu Kumar Gupta, President, SRIA, Alang, Haresh Kumar Parmar, Member, SRIA, Alang, Harshad Dathawala, SRIA, Alang, Chitan Kaithai, SRIA, Alang, Vipin Aggarwal, SRIA, Alang, Nitin Kanakiya, Jt. Secy, SRIA, Bhavnagar, Ms. Dina P. Patel, GMB, Alang and Ms. Rani Ranjan, GEPIL, Surat.

The letter was responded to by D Mehrotra, Deputy Surveyor cum Senior DDG (Tech.), DG Shipping by letter [No.ENG/CCI-24 (1))/2002] dated June 28, 2011 written to Secretary, MoEF. Following which an Office Memorandum [No.29-3/2009-HSMD], MoEF dated August 29, 2011 seeking strict compliance with the procedure to combat the menace of fake documents in the ship breaking industry. This is required as per the recommendations of the Supreme Court's order.

The official procedure is as under:
1.      Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) to send details of ship owner and copies of statutory and copies of the statutory certificates to the local Mercantile Marine Department (MMD)
2.      The Principal Officer of the said Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) will verify the authenticity through Equasis website and other available resources and inform GMB with reference to authenticity of certificates.
3.      In case certificates cannot be verified by MMD, the MMD will forward the same to the Port State Control (PSC) Cell of the Directorate justifying the inability. PSC Cell of the Directorate will take the matter with the concerned Flag Administration and verify authenticity of the certificates and convey the same to the GMB with copy to GMB.

A copy of the procedure was sent to Principal Officer of the said Mercantile Marine Department (MMD), Kandla.

In a notification [F.No. SR-12020/2/2011-MG] issued in the Gazette of India dated April 20, 2012, it is stated, “The Indian Coastguard and Indian Navy may also check and verify the protection and indemnity insurance and the name of Classification Society of the vessel, if considered necessary. If the vessel is not in possession of a valid protection and indemnity insurance and certificate of class, the matter shall be reported to the Directorate General of Shipping immediately, for appropriate action under the Act.”

Besides this as per an official communication Directorate General of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping [No.-NT (2)/Correspondent/12] dated 06/08/2013 on the subject of Non-IACS Classed old ships proceeding to ship breaking yard stated, “the concerned Coastal State/Ports has the responsibility to protect its coastline against shipping casualties which may/may not cause pollution…”. IACS stands for Indian Association of Classification Societies.

It further provided following safeguards required to be taken prior to the entry of such ship into their ports, or transiting through such ports or ship-breaking yards as the case may be, for the purpose of ship breaking:
1.      Such ships to carry a valid Third Party Insurance cover issued by the IG Club or otherwise (as acceptable to the Directorate of Shipping).
2.      Such ships to have in place valid single voyage permission from the Flag Administration and Certificate of Inspection issued by the authorized Recognized Organization (RO) of the Flag Administration of such ships
3.      Such ships or ship-breaking yards must carry out risk assessment prior to allowing entry of such ships to its water.
4.      In the event of high risk cases, such ports or ship-breaking yards may approach the Port State Control (PSC) Cell of the D G Shipping or the local Principal Officer of Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) for their inputs and advice including the conduct of Port State Control/Flag State implementation (FSI) inspection if necessary.

In the case of another end-of-life toxic ship Platinum II formerly known as the SS Oceanic (and originally, the SS Independence) that arrived in Indian waters for scrapping on 8 October 2009 with papers saying its flag was that of the Republic of Kiribati and that it was owned by Platinum Investment Services of Monrovia, Liberia. I had received official confirmation from the Operations Manager at Kiribati Ship Registry, Liau Siew Leng, that the registration was a forgery. The Kiribati Ministry of Communications, Transport & Tourism Development Office further confirmed the falsified documents. The communication was officially communicated by Kiribati Ministry of Communications, Transport & Tourism Development Office to the concerned Indian ministries including ministry of environment & forests.

The permission for beaching if it is granted would be in violation of Supreme Court’s order, Shipbreaking Code 2013 and Basel Convention. The real owner of this dead and obsolete ship is Christian Stadil who preaches a good deal about ethics in business but is apparently involved in unethical act of increasing the toxic burden on Alang’s ecosystem, migrant workers of the Gujarat’s shipbreaking industry and adjoining village communities.

In violation of the judgment of the Court dated October 14, 2003 (reiterated in 2007 and 2012) which calls for prior decontamination of the ship in the country of export, the movement of this Danish ship fails to ensure the fundamental principle of “Prior Informed Consent”. The “reporting” is taking place only after the hazardous waste ship arrives in the importing country’s territory that a competent authority has the right to object and the objection allowed is not to the importation but to the ship recycling plan or ship recycling facility permit.  Thus, India is forced to receive hazardous waste in the form of ships.  The movement of such harmful toxic ships ignores Polluter Pays/Producer Responsibility Principle, Environmental Justice Principle, Waste Prevention/Substitution Principles and Principle of National Self Sufficiency in Waste Management.

The ship breaking activities are linked to issues of maritime and national security as has been recorded repeatedly in the minutes of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship breaking.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has been working on the issue of hazardous wastes and ship breaking for over decade. It is an applicant before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests, Parliamentary Petitions Committee, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and relevant UN agencies besides Inter-Ministerial Committee on Ship breaking. It was the applicant before the Supreme Court wherein the order for creation of the Shipbreaking Code was passed. It had appeared before the Supreme Court’s Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes, Court’s Technical Experts Committee on Hazardous Wastes related to Ship breaking and pursued cases involving famous ships like RIKY (Kong Frederik IX), Le Clemenceau, SS Blue Lady, Platinum II and Exxon Valdez and others.

TWA demands that the Danish ship in question should not be given beaching permission and send it back from the Indian waters in order to ensure that entry of end-of-life ships are compliant with obligations under Basel Convention, Court's order and the Code.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 9818089660
E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com, Web:
http://www.toxicswatch.com



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