Supreme Court seeks replies in asbestos laden ex Exxon Valdez Ship case

Entry, anchoring & inspection of dead US Ship in contempt of court’s order  

Supreme Court seeks replies in asbestos laden ex Exxon Valdez case

New Delhi, July 9, 2012

Hearing the matter of the legality of the entry of dead US Ship ex Exxon Valdez in Indian waters, the bench of Justice Altmas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar adjourned the case for hearing on July 19, 2012. It has asked all the concerned ministries and departments including Shipping Ministry, Customs, GPCB, GMB etc to submit whatever response they want file on the interlocutory application (I.A.) no. 62 and 61 of Gopal Krishna and Best Oasis Ltd respectively.  The court has not passed any interim orders.  

So far some 5924 Ships have been dumped and broken in the grave yard of dead ships and migrant workers from UP, Bihar, Jhrkhand and Odisha. Currently there are some 160 dead ships standing at Alang beach Bhavnagar, Gujarat with impunity and in violation of Court’s order, UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal and Hazardous Waste Management Rules.  

The attached I.A. no. 62 dated July 4, 2012 reveals that Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat remains a grave threat to environmental and occupational health due to dead ships being dumped by developed countries like US, Europe, Japan and others in a routine manner due to the collusion of Gujarat based officials.

In the beginning, Mr Sanjay Parikh, advocate for Gopal Krishna pointed out that in order dated May 3, 2012, and July 6, 2012, the court has directed that Basel Convention of which India is a party should be followed and in case of violation legal action should be taken. He also pointed out that the entry permission, anchoring permission and inspection has been granted in violation of Supreme Court order of May 3, 2012, which stands confirmed in the final order dated July 6, 2012.         

Earlier, in para 31 of July 6, 2012 judgment, the bench observed, “…the question of ship breaking and distribution of hazardous wastes are being considered separately in the contempt proceedings, in these proceedings we expect and reiterate that the directions contained in the BASEL Convention have to be strictly followed by all the concerned players, before a vessel is allowed to enter Indian territorial waters and beach at any of the beaching facilities in any part of the Indian coast-line. In case of breach of the conditions, the authorities shall impose the penalties contemplated under the municipal laws of India.” This vindicates the position of the applicant.  

Para 8 of the judgment reads, “This Court observed that the ship breaking operations could not be allowed to continue, without strictly adhering to all precautionary principles, CPCB guidelines and upon taking the requisite safeguards, which have been dealt with extensively in the report of the High Powered Committee, which also included the working conditions of the workmen.”

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has been asking the authorities to comply with the recommendations of 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.

TWA demands that the ship breaking industrial activity must be taken off the Alang beach to protect these dying workers and the coastal environment. The currently practiced “beaching method” whereby obsolete ships are run aground on ocean beaches for cutting and breaking apart in the intertidal zone can never be accomplished in a manner which is environmentally sound or protective of human health. Careful analysis of the intrinsic characteristics of beaching operations are conclusive that no amount of prescriptive improvements or protections can remedy the four fatal characteristics of intertidal beaching operations:

1. First there is the impossibility of containing pollutants on a tidal beach where hulls of ships are often breached accidentally or by cutting, or toxic paints erode or are abraded sending persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and oils onto the beach and into the seawater;

2. Second, due to a shifting and soft wet tidal sand surface, there is the impossibility of rapidly bringing emergency response equipment, including fire-fighting equipment and vehicles, ambulances and cranes alongside the ship, to assist or remove persons hurt inside the hull;

3. Third, the impossibility of allowing cranes to work alongside to lift heavy cut sections of a ship and thereby preventing heavy cut sections from being subject to gravity, shifting or falling directly into workers or into the marine environment; and

4. Finally, there is the absolute incompatibility of conducting hazardous waste management operations (which is what they are as long as ships contain hazardous wastes, in the ecologically delicate and vital coastal zone.

In view of the above, TWA demands that efforts of US Maritime Administration (US MARAD) through its Ship Disposal Policy with Indian sea coasts as one of its key destinations must be resisted.

In the aftermath of the July 6 judgment, the fate of Sierra Leone flagged ex end-of-life US ship Exxon Valdez (currently named MV Oriental N, IMO No. 8414520) and another dead and hazardous US flagged ship, “DELAWARE TRADER” (IMO No. 8008929) appears sealed. This will paves the way for Alang beach to be remedied of its contamination restored to its pristine ecological condition.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), 9818089660,

E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com, Web:toxicswatch.blogpsot.com

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