07 May 2012

Stop toxic ship mid-way: Indian Supreme Court

Taking a serious view of the allegations that an ailing and contaminated US ship ‘Oriental Nicety’ has entered Indian shores to get its last rites done at Gujarat’s shipbreaking grave yard, the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Union government and the shipping ministry to inform it about the steps they have taken to cut short her voyage midway.

According to a PIL filed by Research and Science Foundation, Oriental Nicety had few more names earlier such as Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean. She has been bought by Best Oasis Company, (a subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd) based in Bhavnagar, Gujarat.

Having apprehensions based on its past experiences relating to the authorities’ indifference to complying with norms laid down in the Basel Convention regarding the shipbreaking too, RSF lawyer Sanjay Parikh said on Friday that the ship is a trespasser as she “doesn’t have the sanction to berth” at any of the shipbreaking yards.

“Though it has not yet been allowed to berth in any of the ports, the ship, which is alleged to be contaminated, has entered Indian waters without taking proper steps for decontamination in the port of export,” Parikh said.

A bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir noted on Friday that the copies of the RSF lawsuit have been handed over to the shipping ministry’s counsel TS Doabia and environment ministry’s lawyer Ashok Bhan. They have been directed to get the instructions from the ministries concerned and file replies.

India is a signatory to the Basel Convention that provides for ensuring minimization of the “generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness’’ and such toxic wastes are disposed “as close to the source of generation as possible”. In its judgment in October 2007, the top court had laid down some statutory conditions for allowing a damned ship to anchor in Indian waters. Before a ship arrives at the port, she should be armed with “proper consent” from the authority concerned or the state maritime board that she is hazardous-free and not carrying any radioactive substances.

She should be properly decontaminated by the ship owner prior to the breaking. This should be ensured by the state pollution control boards.

According to Toxicswatch, Oriental Nicety is the second ship that has her origin in the US and that is “outwitting Indian laws”.

A report from New Orleans on March 23 last said the `Exxon Valdez’ has been sold for scrap 23 years after causing the worst tanker spill in the US history, which led to new designs for oil carriers. Now called the `Oriental Nicety’, the vessel was sold for about $16 million, said a report of Maryland-based Global Marketing Systems Inc., the world’s biggest cash buyer of ships for demolition.

Source: DNA. By Rakesh Bhatnagar. 7 May 2012

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