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Anchorage of Asbestos laden Sierra Leone flagged ex EXXON VALDEZ in Contempt of Court

Written By Krishna on Sunday, July 01, 2012 | 3:38 AM

Press Release
Anchorage of Asbestos laden Sierra Leone flagged ex EXXON VALDEZ in Contempt of Court
Trade in Embedded Asbestos Waste and PCBs and the end-0f-life Ship Violates UN’s
Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste and Indian Hazardous Waste Rules
Present and Past Ownership Document of the Hazardous Vessel Merit Scrutiny

July 1, 2012, New Delhi-Contrary to the order dated May 3, 2012, Supreme Court wherein had asked Union of India, Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Environment & Forests “to inform this Court as to the steps being taken to prevent the ship berthing in any of the ports in India, without following the conditions indicated in the Basel Convention,” if anchorage is allowed it will be in contempt of court. The legal meaning of berthing is anchoring.

At page no. 17 and 18 of the attached application of the Honkong based Best Oasis company, the letter of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) addressed to the Port Officer, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) reveals that there has not been compliance with the court order seeking compliance with UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal of which India is a party.

At page 18 of the application wherein GPCB’s letter is annexed. The letter specifically refers to ‘agency’s letter seeking Anchoring permission’ responding to the same, GPCB reproduced Hon’ble Court’s order of May 3, 2012 ad verbatim. The relevant part of attached 9 page order refers to the application filed by Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance at page no. 8 and 9. It reads: “Mr. Sanjay Parikh also submitted that a separate interlocutory application has been filed, which is yet to be numbered, in which it has been indicated that a foreign ship, which is alleged to be contaminated, has entered into Indian Waters, though, it has not yet been allowed to berth in any of the ports, without taking proper steps for decontamination in the port of export. A copy has been provided to Mr. Ashok Bhan, learned senior counsel appearing for the Union of India and Mr. T.S. Doabia, learned senior counsel, who submits that he is appearing on behalf of the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India. Both, Mr. Bhan and Mr. Doabia, are requested to take instructions on the statements made in the interlocutory application and to inform this Court as to the steps being taken to prevent the ship berthing in any of the ports in India, without following the conditions indicated in the Basel Convention. The respondents in the interlocutory application will be entitled to file their respective counter affidavits to the same, within six weeks. Rejoinder thereto, if any, may be filed within two weeks thereafter. Let this interlocutory application, as well as the other connected interlocutory applications, be listed on 13th August, 2012, also.”

The agency which applied for the anchoring permission is named as SHREEJI SHIPPING AGENCY. It is not revealed as to what is the relationship between this agency and Mumbai based Oswald Cardozo of Hongkong based Best Oasis Company, a subsidiary of Gujarat based Priya Blue Company.

The letter of GPCB dated May 8, 2012 reveals that the Office of the Assistant Commissioner of Customs has also taken cognizance of these violations. It refers to starred questions raised in Rajya Sabha about the vessel as well. it is admitted that ‘This office has also referred the matter to seek legal opinion, accordingly it would not be appropriate to grant any permission to the vessel “MV Oriental N” having one of the old name “Exxon Valdez” till further order is issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.’ The question is what has changed since May 3, 2012 till date to necessitate GPCB to revisit its denial of ‘to grant any permission to the vessel” in question. The influence of invisible players must be probed.

It is noteworthy that the end-of life vessel is a hazardous waste as per the Convention. The end-of-life US ships are laden with asbestos, PCBs and heavy metals which are being dumped in India in pursuance of USA’s Ship Disposal Policy. It is not for US Maritime Administration (US MARAD) and US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to disclose the original inventory of hazardous and radioactive materials on board its vessel, Exxon Valdez. The Central Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Gujarat Maritime Board is supposed to verify the veracity of their inventory after that. It is matter of court’s record that GPCB does not have the facility to test PCBs. How can they visually inspect PCBs? It has not been disclosed so far whether it has the expertise to inspect lung cancer causing asbestos on the ship.

The inspection of the ship by moving it in Indian waters in Bhavnagar reportedly undertaken by the GPCB and GMB is has been done without court’s order as per Prayer No. 1 of the application of Mumbai based Oswald Cardozo on behalf of Hongkong based Best Oasis Company seeking inspection and anchorage. This is a manifest case of contempt of court’s order. The application was filed on May 9, 2012. Mr Oswald Cardozo must be asked to reveal his relationship with the company and the inventory of this hazardous ship. Who is hiding behind the corporate veil to escape decontamination cost?

Supreme Court’s original judgment of October 14, 2003 and September 6, 2007 reads: “13. A complete inventory of hazardous waste on board of ship should be made mandatory for the ship owner.” The core question is has the ship owner of the ship disclosed the inventory of hazardous waste on board of ship.

GPCB appears to be misleading when it says that there no hazardous materials like asbestos on board the ship. The fact is that it is only since January 1, 2011 that International Maritime Organization (IMO) has imposed total ban on asbestos. All ships prior to this date are likely to have asbestos and thus the end-of-life vessels like 1986 built Exxon Valdez (IMO No. 8414520) remain a major concern.

Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on Hazardous Wastes has rightly asked, “If India accepts the ship, then India will be seen as abetting a violation of the Basel Convention… Why should we sacrifice our precious soil to bury some other country's (hazardous) junk?”

Government of USA is repeatedly trying to evade its responsibility regarding its end-of-life vessels. That’s why it did not ratify Basel Convention. USA’s standards for handling asbestos are amongst the highest in the world. But instead of investing in safe removal and disposal of the asbestos on Exxon Valdez, they are trying to dupe the Indian Government, and dump their toxic wastes onto the most vulnerable workforce in the world. This is absolutely reprehensible and unbecoming of a supposedly civilized nation.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) demands that the current and past ownership documents of the vessel must be examined. Industrialized countries should not be allowed to dump their junk into the developing world for the sake of perverted economic logic.

The eagerness to profit from one of the world's dirtiest industries, the dismantling of toxic ships by migrant and casual workers from Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha at Alang beach is fraught with disastrous environmental and occupational health consequences.

The fact is that September 2007 order of the Supreme Court has reproduced ad verbatim the court's landmark judgment of October 14, 2003. The relevant part of the order in the WRIT PETITION NO. 657 OF 1995 case which needs to be read before arriving at the legality or illegality of the anchorage of the toxic US vessel, Exxon Valdez (now called Oriental MV).

The order reads: “4. Disposal of waste material, viz. Oil, cotton, dead cargo of inorganic material like hydrated/solidified elements, thermocol pieces, glass wool, rubber, broken tiles, etc. should be done in a proper manner, utilizing technologies that meet the criteria of an effective destruction efficiently of 99.9 per cent, with no generation of persistent organic pollutants, and complete containment of all gaseous, liquid and solid residues for analysis and, if needed, reprocessing. Such disposed of material should be kept at a specified placed earmarked for this purpose. Special care must be taken in the handling of asbestos wastes, and total quantities of such waste should be made known to the concerned authorities. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board should authorize appropriates final disposal of asbestos waste.”

TWA demands that GPCB should disclose its disposal site for asbestos waste of this ship. TWA has sought compliance with the above mentioned order besides the recommendations of the Hon'ble court's Inter-Ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking. On May 3, 2012, the court asked the Union Government to file an affidavit as to whether the ship in question has complied with the Basel Convention. More than a month has passed but compliance affidavit has not been filed.

In such a situation, there is a compelling logic for this dead hazardous ship to be sent away from the Indian waters. It is trying to repeat the story of another dubious dead US ship Platinum II (ex SS Independence, MV Oceanic) to set a bad a precedent to ensure that it paves the way for hundreds of dead toxic US ships to be dumped in Indian waters.

A section of media appears to be been misled into reporting that the June 25, 2012 order of the court has cleared the end-of-life vessel Exxon Valdez (currently named MV Oriental N). The attached order reveals that no relief has been given as per the prayers in the application of Best Oasis company, subsidiary of Priya Blue Company. The application of the company is also attached.

According to IMO, “In March 1989, the Exxon Valdez, loaded with 1,264,155 barrels of crude oil, ran aground in the northeastern portion of Prince William Sound, spilling about one-fifth of its cargo. It was the largest crude spill, to date, in US waters and - probably the one which gained the biggest media coverage to date. The U.S. public demanded action - and duly got it. The United States introduced its Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90), making it mandatory for all tankers calling at U.S. ports to have double hulls.”

From 1986 to 1990 it was owned by Exxon Shipping Company , a division of Exxon Corporation. In early 1993, it was transferred to another subsidiary company, Sear River Maritime Inc. Till 2005 it was under US flag. From 2005 it was under the flag of Marshall Islands. It was owned by Hong Kong Bloom Shipping Ltd, a unit of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), owner of the second largest shipping fleet in the world from August 2008 to 2011. This company renamed it as Oriental Nicety in 2011.

Notably both Exxon Corporation and COSCO are part of the United Nations Global Compact that commits business enterprises to uphold fundamental human rights, labour and environment protection laws. This move by Exxon and COSCO to sell the former Exxon Valdez for dismantling of the vessel on Alang beach exposes the hollowness of the UN Compact.

In March 2012, this US Vessel was purchased by a US based company Global Marketing Systems (GMS) , one of the leading buyers of dead ships with offices in Shanghai and UAE. This company was indicted by the USEPA in the Platinum II case. The vessel was sold to a ship breaker company in Singapore on March 27, 2012. The name of this ship breaker company has not been disclosed.

It is claimed that the ship is now owned by Hongkong based Best Oasis company, a subsidiary of Priya Blue company. This company has renamed the vessel as MV Oriental N. The veracity of such ownership claims can only be done if the ownership documents are submitted to the court. The sale of this vessel to Best Oasis was announced by Maryland GMS.

After being the flag of USA and Marshall Islands, it took under Panama flag. As per the last information, this vessel is under Sierra Leone flag. Best Oasis company was set up in Hong Kong in 2010 for the “sole purpose of cash buying of vessels for recycling at Alang, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China,” as per company’s website.

In November of 2010 this vessel had collided with the Aali, a Malta-flagged cargo ship, in the South China Sea. This vessel was towed to Longyan Port in the Chinese province of Shandong.

Earlier, it was planned that the vessel will be dismantled at Dalian in China. It has come to light that the vessel has illegally moved to Bhavnagar, Gujarat as of July 1, 2012. The last known port of this vessel was Mumbai. This end-of-life vessel of Length x Breadth: 300 m X 50 m has a dead weight of 213855 ton. The next hearing of application seeking compliance with Basel Convention and Supreme Court’s order is scheduled for July 9, 2012.

At present ship breaking activity is regulated by the directives of the Supreme Court of India in their ruling in W.P. (Civil) No. 657 of 1995 vide Order dated October 14, 2003 and September 6, 2007. As per the court order a Ship Breaking/Recycling Code Should been formulated by the Inter Ministerial Committee on Ship breaking constituted by the court under Union Ministry of Steel, the Focal Point for shipbreaking activity taking into account the directions contained in the Supreme Court Order, recommendations of Technical Experts Committee and High Powered Committee but several years have passed without compliance with the court order.

The non-cooperation of the Union Environment & Forests Ministry with the SCMC is one of the key reasons for the sorry state of affairs in the hazardous ship breaking industrial operations.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) Mb: 08002263335, 09818089660, E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com, Phone: +91-11-26517814, Fax: +91-11-26517814 Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com, banasbestosindia.blogspot.com
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