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Isn't Alang a toxic security threat?

Written By mediavigil on Saturday, May 16, 2009 | 1:03 PM

Note: The intelligence report mentions that the regulations allow such ships innocent passage through the entire stretch of Indian waters unscrutinized by the security agencies. Besides environmental security, national security also seems to be a casualty. Newly adopted IMO Convention on Ship Recycling/breaking on 15 May, 2009 at the instance of ship owners and ship owning countries opens the flood gates for indiscriminate dumping of dead and toxic ships on once pristine beaches of Alang. Supreme Court of India has been misled by the cash buyers through high profile lawyers. Intelligence surveillance on Alang's black economy is an urgent necessity.

Is Alang a contraband haven?

AHMEDABAD/BHAVNAGAR: Once Asia's busiest ship-breaking yards, Alang is becoming notorious for passage of contraband. Recently, 2.2 kg of cocaine and stocks of sandalwood and ivory were seized there.

Patrolling on the shores has been tightened and port officials have been asked to be on alert. Every ship coming for breaking is being thoroughly checked and crew is being screened.

Alang hasn't been a cause for concern for security agencies so far, Bhavnagar superintendent of police RV Asari told TOI. "However, after these incidents, we are taking precautions. We have deployed a motor boat with six policemen to patrol the coast. Coast Guard is also patrolling Gulf of Khambhat. District special operations group (SOG) and local police are keeping a vigil on the highway running parallel to the sea," he said.

"The recent seizures are stray incidents and not regular affairs. This is not a port that can be used time and again. Also, we are checking every incoming ship three times," said a senior port officer. "We're keeping an eye on Alang to free it of such illegal activities," said a senior IPS officer.

Alang has a dubious record as far as ecological affairs are concerned due to use of harmful gases and material scrapped. The new concern is whether banned goods are being smuggled in the guise of scrap.

State Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) sources said cocaine was found from the cabin of a ship that had come for scrapping. Forest department detained a Syrian national who came with a ship in Alang for possessing elephant tusks.

Recently, when the department recovered 12.5 kg of ivory and 400 kg of sandalwood from Bhavnagar and Palitana, the sea route was immediately suspected.

Even in these times of slump, the yard receives around 100 ships every year from around the world. If goods mentioned above could sneak through three-tier customs and security checks, it could be explosives and weapons next.

Parth Shastri
The Times of India

Swine flu threat from Alang

Gandhinagar(IANS): The Gujarat government has sounded a “special alert” at Asia’s biggest ship breaking and recycling yard in Alang on India’s western coastline with health officials told to carry out thorough screening of foreign crews for swine flu.
“A special alert was sounded at Alang where 25,000 migrant labourers at the yard are at risk of contracting the disease,” a senior health official told IANS.

The Alang yard, 50 km from Bhavnagar, receives large vessels with a bare minimum crew of 30 to 40 seamen. However, these vessels anchor at various ports for days before getting beached at the breaking and recycling yard.

“The risk is more from the migrant labourers contracting the influenza A(H1N1) infection in (Alang), which has close to 25,000 labourers living in shanties close to the yard.

“If these labourers, if infected by the virus, travel to other parts of the state one can easily guess the magnitude of the problem that Gujarat could face compared to other states in the country,” the official said.

The state government has already put major ports - Kandla, Mundhra and Pipavav - under the scanner and health officials are closely screening foreign visitors and crew for the influenza A(H1N1) infection, which, according to the WHO, has already spread to 21 countries. However, there is no such case reported in India so far.

Alang yard receives around 30 small and large vessels every month for breaking with a high number of crew of various nationalities disembarking at the yard and then after going through the mandatory customs and other immigration formalities taking a flight back from Ahmedabad airport.
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