Supreme Court Refuses Relief to dead US ship Exxon Valdez again, refers it to original bench

Court’s order, International and Indian laws should not be made subservient to US Government’s Ship Disposal Policy

Environment Ministry’s Affidavit in dead US ship case contrary to its order in another US ship Platinum II case paves way for more dead US ships like Delaware Trader  

New Delhi, June 26, 2012 –In its order dated June 25, 2012, Supreme Court’s Vacation Bench of Justice HL Gokhle and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai has ordered that the matter of dead US ship Exxon Valdez should be placed before the appropriate Bench.

The ship owners had tried their luck even before another Vacation Bench of Justice Deepak Verma and Justice Sudhanshu Jyoti Mukhopadhya on May 14. Both the benches have refused any relief to the owners of US hazardous dead vessel now named MV Oriental N (Formerly, Oriental Nicety, Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean).

On May 3, 2012, the bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar in the matter of this US hazardous dead vessel that was trying to enter Indian waters at Alang beach Bhavnagar in its order sought compliance with UN’s Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal to which India is a party.  It had refused any berthing permission to the dead ship. The ship owners have failed to comply with the order so far.  The continued presence of this dead US ship in Indian waters off Mumbai coast is in violation of court’s order. The authorities must ensure that the ship is sent away from the Indian waters.

Ministry of Environment & Forests appears to be acting contrary to the precedent it set in the matter of Platinum II (ex-SS Independence, MV Oceanic), another US dead ship which entered Indian waters on fake documents and violation of US Toxics Substances Control Act.  The same is being violated in this case as well because the ship is PCB laden. The submission of the Ministry is erroneous and will be suitably replied during the course of the hearing.

US Maritime Administration (MARAD)’s dubious act witnessed in the case of Platinum II (ex SS INDEPENDENCE, 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.

In any case, the Focal Ministry for ship breaking is Ministry of Steel as per court order dated October 14, 2003 and September 6, 2007. The Inter Ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking set up by the order is under this very Ministry. It has made many recommendations which have been filed in the court. These recommendations have not been complied with by Gujarat Maritime Board and Gujarat Pollution Control Board.     

A perusal of the Supreme Court orders of June 25, May 3 and May 14 2012 along with the application of Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance seeking compliance with court’s order and Basel Convention and the application of Hongkong based Best Oasis company, subsidiary of Gujarat based Priya Blue Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd seeking permission to anchor Exxon Valdez (MV Oriental N) at Alang reveals that the US vessel is non-compliant with US laws, Indian laws and international laws besides the courts order.

The reference to September 6, 2009 directions of court without reference to October 14, 2003 order is misleading because the former orders reproduces ad verbatim every word of the 2003 order.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) disagrees with selective reporting of facts and court’s orders by a section of media. TWA condemns Barack Obama administration’s export of dead and toxic ships like Platinum –II, ‘Exxon Valdez’ and now ‘Delaware Trader’ to Indian waters to poisons fragile Indian coastal environment, workers, fishermen, villagers. It demands probe in the role of Indian officials who are colluding with the vested interests from USA.

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. TWA demands that DELAWARE TRADER should not be allowed to enter Indian waters. These ships enter Indian waters and present fait accompli to the law enforcement agencies.  

The ex Exxon Vadez 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.

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.

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 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.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08002263335, 09818089660, E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com