18 May 2012

Gujarat wary, Alang-bound US ship of oil spill fame waits in sea:

The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) have for now decided against allowing the beaching of US vessel Oriental Nicety — formerly Exxon Valdez, the ship responsible for the Alaska oil spill of 1989 — at the Alang shipbreaking yard.

“We have not given permission for beaching, and neither has the GPCB. We will take a final decision in the coming few days,” said S C Mathur, GMB’s chief nautical officer.

The GPCB’s regional officer, A V Shah, said over phone from Bhavnagar that the decision to not recommend beaching permission was taken on Tuesday after a review of official papers and also taking into account the ongoing case in the Supreme Court as well as the upcoming monsoon season.

The vessel was earlier expected to beach at Alang for dismantling on May 9.

However, an NGO called Research and Science Foundation recently filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging the ship had entered Indian waters without being first decontaminated as per international conventions. The apex court had on Monday issued notices to the Ministry of Shipping and the Union Government, asking for information on steps taken.

In one of the world’s worst man-made disasters, the Exxon Valdez was grounded off the Alaskan coast in March 1989, spilling a massive amount of crude oil - the exact amount remains disputed but most studies peg it at not less than 2.5 lakh barrels of crude oil - that affected more than 1,700 kms of the coastline.

A senior Customs official in the Bhavnagar Commissionerate said the vessel had not been given beaching permission since they had not received the mandatory no-objection certificate (NOC) from the GMB.

The GPCB and Customs act as recommending agencies to the GMB, which looks after Alang shipbreaking yard. As per court orders passed in 2007, a negative recommendation from either the GPCB or the Customs as binding on the fate of in-bound vessels, officials said.

Oriental Nicety was bought by Bhavnagar-based Best Oasis Company to be dismantled at Asia’s biggest shipbreaking yard, and is currently parked at an undisclosed location offshore. An official said its Global Positioning System appears to have been switched off.

Source: The Indian Express. By ADAM HALLIDAY. 9 May 2012

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