Supreme Court’s Order Seeking Compliance with UN’s Basel Convention Welcomed
New Delhi 10/05/2012: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) welcomes the order of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar bench of Supreme Court in the matter of a US hazardous end-of-life vessel named ‘Oriental Nicety’ (formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean) that has been purchased by Best Oasis Company, (a subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd) based in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Following the order the movement of the vessel is under scrutiny. The matter is likely to come for mentioning in the Court on May 11, 2012.
The relevant part of the order which requires compliance with UN’s on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, reads: “A copy (of the application) 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.” Mr Sanjay Parikh, lawyer, Supreme Court argued the case on behalf of the petitioner. The application has been filed by Gopal Krishna of TWA. For details regarding Basel Convention visit: http://www.basel.int
Basel Convention Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial Dismantling of Ships were adopted in 2002 by Decision VI/24 of the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The 112 page guidelines provide information and recommendations on procedures, processes and practices that should be implemented to achieve Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) at ship dismantling facilities. It identifies different environmental hazards and recommends specific measures to prevent or reduce them. It also contains a list of wastes that may be inherent in the vessel structure or on board a ship. Finally, the guidelines provide advice on monitoring and verification of environmental performance. The Basel Convention is attached.
The court order dated May 3, 2012 further reads: “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.”
Sources have informed that following the order Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) has revoked the anchorage permission that was granted to the ship for anchoring on May 9, 2012.
The Supreme Court has also given several directions on ship-breaking since October 2003 following the recommendations of Prof M G K Menon headed High Powered Committee on Hazardous Wastes. Basel Convention has been adopted as part of the court’s order. The court seeks prior decontamination of dead ships in the country of export. Parliament has been informed that these directions have been sent to all the relevant bodies and authorities such as the concerned State Pollution Control Boards including Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Maritime Board etc, for strict compliance. The Central Pollution Control Board’s ‘Environmental Guidelines for Shipbreaking industries’ Old vessels containing or contaminated with substances such as PCBs, waste asbestos dust and fibre, lead and lead compounds are accordingly classified as hazardous materials. The customs authority and /or the concerned State Maritime Board should ensure this and issue a certificate to this effect that the vessel is free from prohibited materials.”
It is noteworthy that India is a party to Basel Convention, USA being a non party makes the trade of US ship Oriental Nicety (ex Exxon Valdez) illegal. Government of USA has lifted the moratorium imposed on transfer of toxic ships to developing countries. Government of India must be on guard to prevent their entry.