28 June 2012

US ship with toxic past gets GPCB nod:

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), one of the 3 government agencies with jurisdiction over the Alang Shipbreaking Yard, has said that it has no objections in allowing the controversial US ship MV Oriental N, formerly known as Exxon Valdez, to anchor off Bhavnagar for an inspection.

With the nod from the GPCB, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) is awaiting the Customs Department’s opinion on the issue, and will thereafter take a final decision on whether to allow the ship to anchor according to government sources. The development comes two days after the Ministry of Shipping told the Supreme Court that “it is the GMB which has to take a decision as to whether the ship concerned should be allowed into the concerned port for ship breaking.”

The ministry was responding to a case filed by Delhi-based activist Gopal Krishna who asked that the Basel Convention, an international agreement ratified by India, be upheld and the dismantling of MV Oriental N not be allowed because it had not been decontaminated.

Rules framed in 2007 under the SC’s orders makes it mandatory for a consensus from all three agencies for a vessel to be allowed to anchored off Alang. These decisions are taken after a ‘desk review’, in which the ship owners submit a declaration of possible hazardous materials present on board.

In case of the Oriental N, desk review documents showed that there is no hazardous material on board the vessel in loose form, although asbestos, glasswool, ply and asbestos containing material (ACM) are present as insulating material in the ship’s engine, boiler areas and some cabins and walls. Such in-built materials are allowed by the Indian authorities as per the 2007 rules.

If the ship is allowed to be anchored, officials from the GPCB and the Customs department along with experts from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Explosives Department would inspect the ship to verify the desk review documents. If not hazardous waste is found in a loose form, the GMB would allow for the ship to be anchored and dismantled. The MV Oriental N attained it’s controversial status in 1989 when the ship spilled an estimated 2.5 lakh barrels of crude oil off the Alaskan coast. The 27-year-old ship changed its name at least seven times and hoisted at least four flags and is reported to have been transporting ore since September 2008.

The vessel is currently reported to be near the coast of Mumbai.

Source: Indian Express. 28 June 2012

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