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Rampant use of fake documents in ship breaking industry & urgent need for verification of authenticity of documents of end-of-life ships on Alang beach

Written By Unknown on Sunday, April 05, 2015 | 2:13 AM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)


Shri Barun Mitra
Ship Breaking Scrap Committee
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Shipping
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: April 5, 2015

Subject-Rampant use of fake documents in ship breaking industry and urgent need for v
erification of authenticity of documents of end-of-life ships on Alang beach & compliance with Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order, Shipbreaking Code 2013 and Basel Convention


In continuation of my previous letters, this is submit that I have learnt that the documents of ownership and port of registry of most of the currently beached end-of-life ships on Alang beach, Bhavnagar have not been verified as per Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order and Shipbreaking Code 2013, I wish to draw your immediate attention towards the phenomena of fake document factories at work in Alang in particular and shipping industry in general.

I have reliably learnt that officials who have been assigned the task do not have the competence to verify the authenticity of documents. I have officially demonstrated it in the past and the same has officially been acknowledged but no remedial measures have been taken so far. The attached documents provide ample proof of the same.

We now know that the registry of the end-of-life ship Platinum II (formerly Oceanic, Independence) which entered into the Indian waters was falsified. The original sample of the registry document and the fake document attached.

The official registry of Kiribati has stated in writing that the paper filed with Indian authorities is fake. The real registry therefore is US.  The reason this has happened is:-a) they believed they could get away with this.b) they did not want to notifiy and get permission from the US to reflag because it is known that US requires Maritime Administration (MARAD) approval for any reflagging for scrap purposes

It is clear that two laws have been violated-the US Maritime Law and likely Indian Maritime Law. It must be illegal for a ship to be brought into India with a falsified flag and registry. 

I submit that the
 remnants of Platinum II now rests at anchorage off Gopnath point approximately 40 nautical miles from the Alang coast while concerned authorities are yet decide her fate. 'Platinum-II' continued to be anchored off Alang in Gujarat waiting to be dismantled, despite the Centre ordering it on November 9, 2009 to return to its place of origin. 'Platinum-II' was called 'SS Oceanic' and 'SS Independence' before it was declared "dead" by the US naval administration.  The highly-contaminated ship entered Indian waters clandestinely waving a fake flag and using fake papers. The 'Platinum-II' owner lied that the erstwhile warship was registered with Singapore-based Kiribati Ship Registry. The Kiribati Ship registry's operations manager Mr Liau Siew Leng informed that neither 'Platinum-II' nor its tug 'Barracuda-I' was registered with them.

I submit that instead of complying with the Government of India’s order dated 9.11.2009, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) by letter dated December 1, 2009 has once again created a fait accompli to out-wit the order passed by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, that the ship cannot be refloated and is defined as “wreck”. This was/is a manifest attempt to escape indictment through linguistic corruption which has raised judicial eye brows.

The attached GMB letter addressed to Dr Saroj, Director, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Ministry of Environment & Forests informed that Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has so far not submitted any information and opinion in the matter of violation of US Toxics Substances Control Act, which was mentioned in the Environment Ministry's order. Notably, the dead ship in question is not registered with the Directorate General of Shipping. Instead of admitting dereliction of duty by the GMB and Customs, the letter speculated that US Coast Guard could not have allowed the dead US ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) to leave US waters. It notes that no intimation from US or Dubai authorities have reached them so far.

Indian law with respect to wreck is laid down in Part XIII of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. The Section 2 (58) of Indian Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 defines ‘wreck’ in an inclusive manner so as to take in both ‘goods’ and ‘vessels’. The definition of wreck is vague. The term ‘vessel’, under Section 2 (55) of the Act includes any ship, boat, sailing vessel or other description of vessel used in navigation which has been abandoned without hope or intention of recovery. Thus abandonment is a prerequisite for a vessel to be treated as a wreck. The insistence on total abandonment without even a hope or intention of recovery clearly shows that a stranded vessel or a vessel that is reasonably expected to sink cannot be termed as a Wreck under the Act. This was not the case in the matter of the dead US ship.

The Act after defining Wreck elaborates on norms governing the handling of Wreck in Part XIII which also deals with salvage. Even if it gets proven that the dead US toxic ship is wreck, even then the Act provides that the Central Government may appoint a receiver to receive and take possession of the wreck and to perform such duties as envisaged under Section 391 of the Act. Clearly, GMB is motive in committing a linguistic corruption of defining a floating hazardous waste is to use the lacunae in the Indian law relating to the handling and removal of wrecks that has been permitting the perpetrators of illegality to go scot-free and the public exchequer is burdened with the task of meeting the huge expenses for wreck removal. The owner of the dead US ship must be made liable for his acts of omission and commission.

There were apprehensions expressed about the veracity of the claim that the ship cannot be refloated again and its reference to as wreck was taken with a pinch of salt.

As per the Supreme Court of India, "Before a ship arrives at port, it should have proper consent from the concerned authority or the State Maritime Board, stating that it does not contain any hazardous waste or radioactive substances." And with regard to hazardous wastes, its orders "Disposal of waste material, viz. oil, cotton, dead cargo of inorganic material like hydrated/solidified elements, thermo- Cole pieces, glass wool, rubber, broken tiles, etc. should be done in a proper manner, utilizing technologies that meet the criteria of an effective destruction efficiency 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 place 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 appropriate final disposal of asbestos wastes."

With regard to international environmental law, the court's order reads, "At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on shipbreaking at the level of the International Maritime Organization and the Basel Convention’s Technical Working Group with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous substances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking."

Shockingly, in the case of dead US ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence), the above order has not been complied with nor has it been claimed that it has been complied with in the face of clear evidence of the ship being laden with asbestos, PCBs and radioactive material.

I submit that after my 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 of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests 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 letter was responded to by Shri 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 Hon'ble Court's order.

I submit that 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
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.

I submit that a copy of the procedure was sent to Principal Officer of the said Mercantile Marine Department (MMD), Kandla.

I submit that 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.”

I submit that 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.

I submit that 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 8th 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, Mr 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.

I wish to reiterate that the permission for beaching if it is granted would be in violation of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order, Shipbreaking Code 2013 and Basel Convention. The real owner of this dead and obsolete ship is Shri Christian Stadil, a noted Danish businessman 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.

I submit that in violation of the judgment of the Hon’ble 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.

I submit that 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.

I submit that the ongoing transfer of the end-of-life ships 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.

I submit that the movement of this ship under the flag of Bahamas is in violation of UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal to which India is a party. It is also in violation of relevant European law by which it is governed. 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.

I submit that there is an urgent need to set matters right and undo the damage done by Shri A Raja’s tenure.

I submit that 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.

I wish to request you to order an inquiry into the fate of Platinum II to set matters right because illegality committed by and its fate has set a very bad and unhealthy precedent for entry of end-of-life ships in Indian waters.

In view of the above, I request you to ensure that entries of end-of-life ships are compliant with obligations under Basel Convention, Hon'ble Court's order and the Shipbreaking Code.

I will be happy to share more details in this regard.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 9818089660
Web: http://www.toxicswatch.org

Note: 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  Hon’ble Supreme Court wherein the order for creation of the Shipbreaking Code was passed. TWA 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.

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