US Government's Ship Disposal Policy Anti-India, Anti-Environment
By Toxics Watch Alliance
22 June, 2012
Barack Obama administration export of dead and toxic ships like Platinum II, 'Exxon Valdez' and now 'Delaware Trader' to Indian waters poisons fragile Indian coastal environment, workers, fishermen, villagers
Supreme Court's actions are consistent Cartagena Resolution for UN's Basel Ban Amendment forbidding export of hazardous wastes from rich countries
New Delhi, June 22, 2012 Yet another dead and hazardous US flagged ship, DELAWARE TRADER (IMO No. 8008929) has been cleared by the U.S. Maritime Administration (US MARAD) for dismantling in the infamous shipbreaking yards of Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat. It is expected to arrive in Indian waters in the coming days. It was last reported at the Port of Maputo, Mozambique on 13 June, 2012.
In an act that tests the legal might of Indian law enforcement agencies, this authorization and export of the toxic ship comes within weeks of the recent Supreme Court of India ruling that barred the U.S. built EXXON VALDEZ (renamed ORIENTAL NICETY, now called MV ORIENTAL N ) from berthing at Indian shipbreaking beaches due to non-compliance with UN's Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal on the complaint by ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA).
The EXXON VALDEZ is currently located off Mumbai in a manifest act of illegality. The violations of Supreme Court's order, international law and the complicit violations of Indian laws and U.S. law is on full display. The rule of law will be tested once again when the DELAWARE TRADER soon arrives in Indian waters, the court will surely compel it to comply with its order.
TWA, an applicant in the Supreme Court in the Exxon Valdez case (hazardous wastes/shipbreaking matter) has sent a letter to the Government of India and relevant state agencies intimating them of grave concerns about maritime security and environmental security in particular and national security in general as has been outlined in the Ministry of Defence documents.
TWA has submitted that there are hazardous materials, such as asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used in the ship's construction. Workers condition on the Alang beach is one of the worst. They are under extremely dangerous and polluting conditions where workers labor on tidal sands to cut ships up by hand, exposing themselves to the risks of toxic chemicals, fires, explosions and falling steel plates. Pollutants are allowed to flow unimpeded into the marine environment. U.S.-based ship recyclers and environmental organizations are wondering as to why Government of USA is allowing what is very likely to be illegal exports instead of recycling the ships at home.
TWA condemns Barack Obama Administration's U.S. ship disposal policy that ignores the law, poisons workers and export its harm to countries like India where competence and infrastructure to deal with its own hazardous wastes is starkly missing.
The DELAWARE TRADER was built in 1982 with a U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loan funds from the Title XI Federal Ship Financing Program. While this government backed loan has since been settled, the PCBs, asbestos and other hazardous materials used to construct the ship have not been properly addressed. The MARAD did notify the U.S. EPA of probable concerns with PCB contamination given the vessel's vintage, and reminded the EPA that the vessel's export could violate the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under TSCA an export of any vessel containing regulated concentrations (PCBs >50 parts per million) in any material on the ship would be illegal. The EPA however ignored MARAD's warning and chose to simply look the other way, thereby authorizing the vessel for export to India for disposal with no assessment of PCB content in the ship. This export then is likely to be a violation of U.S. law.
The export of the DELAWARE TRADER to India is also a breach of the United Nations Basel Convention, which prohibits the dumping of hazardous wastes on developing countries. While the U.S. is an active observer of Basel proceedings, the U.S. has still not formally ratified the Convention. Therefore, as a non-party state, the U.S. is not permitted to export waste to Basel-ratifying states such as India. Thus, U.S. ships that land on India's shipbreaking beaches violate the fundamental rules of the Basel Convention and are illegal under international law.
Unlike the U.S. government, the Supreme Court of India has taken notice and blocked the berthing of U.S. built EXXON VALDEZ in May 2012 after it arrived in Indian waters without first being pre-cleaned of hazardous waste. The court's actions are consistent with multilateral decisions made in October 2011, when 178 parties to the Basel Convention met in Cartagena, Colombia to not only re-endorse the Basel Ban Amendment forbidding the export of hazardous wastes from rich to poorer countries, but also resolve that the Basel Convention must continue to prohibit the dumping of end-of-life vessels on developing countries. TWA urges central government to enforce the letter and spirit of Basel Ban Amendment and Basel Convention to save India's environment from hazardous waste trade mafia.
TWA has asked concerned Ministries of Government of India and Gujarat State to block the DELAWARE TRADER from entering its waters and to uphold the principles of the Basel Convention in the same manner as the recent Supreme Court action against the U.S. built EXXON VALDEZ . The DELAWARE TRADER and the EXXON VALDEZ were both constructed at the same yard, and therefore likely contain similar hazards within their construction. TWA appeals to the Government of USA to take immediate steps to change its ship disposal policy so that such ships never again are exported to countries like India to exploit desperate laborers.
TWA hold that US Maritime Administration (US MARAD) is attempting to set a bad precedent for hundreds of such ships to be dumped in Indian waters in connivance by US MARAD and some gullible Indian officials.
It wishes to repeat its dubious act witnessed in the case of Platinum II (ex SS INDPENDENCE, MV OCEANIC), a dead and hazardous US ship, the real owners had taken Indian law enforcement agencies for a ride due to lack of coordination and cooperation between concerned ministries. In an Office Memorandum No.29-3/2009-HSMD, Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests, (HSM Division) dated 9th May, 2011, relating to implementation of Supreme Court directions in respect of ship breaking activities, the previous dead and convicted US ship, Platinum II (Ex SS Oceanic, MV Oceanic) was denied beaching permission but it remained in Indian waters without beaching. It had left US waters despite indictment by US Environment Protection Agency with the apparent connivance of US MARAD. It had entered Indian waters on proven fake documents.
The attached letter has been sent to Union Defence Minister with copies to concerned ministries and departments like Ministry of Shipping, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Union Ministry of Steel, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), Anti Corruption Branch, Gandhinagar, Central Bureau Investigation and Office of Commissioner, Customs, Ahmedabad besides Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes. The matter has also been brought to the attention of Sanjay Parikh, the Supreme Court lawyer who is pursuing the matter since 1995.
Meanwhile, Basel Action Network, an environmental organization of the USA based in Seattle has issued a statement charged Obama Administration of ignoring U.S. Law and poisons Asian workers. It has denounced U.S. Ship Disposal Policy calling it 'Shameful' following the export of 'Exxon Valdez' and 'Delaware Trader' to Indian beaches.
TWA has sought urgent intervention in this matter of environmental security concerns from the entry of dead US vessel, MV Oriental N (formerly Exxon Valdez, Oriental Nicety, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean) to ensure that the dead and toxic US vessel is sent away from the Indian waters.
TWA demands that those officials of Ministry of Shipping, GPCB and GMB who allowed Platinum II to remain in Indian waters despite denial of permission for beaching must be probed and punished.
It is noteworthy that USA's regulations and European Union regulations prohibit the entry of such vessels in their waters.
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