15 July 2012

Breaches: Export of US tankers to Indian shipbreaking beaches

Seattle, Washington, USA – An U.S. flagged tanker called the “Delaware Trader” was cleared by the U.S. Maritime Administration for scrapping on the notorious shipbreaking beach of Alang, India. It is expected to arrive in India within the next days. The authorization and export of the toxic ship comes on the heels of the recent Indian Supreme Court ruling which barred the U.S. built "Exxon Valdez" (now called "Oriental Nicety") from landing at Indian shipbreaking beaches due to suspected hazardous materials, such as asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used in the ship's construction. The "Exxon Valdez" is thought to be currently anchored off Mumbai, India. India's top court, international law and U.S. law will be tested once again when the "Delaware Trader" soon arrives in India for breaking.

Shipbreaking at Alang takes place under extremely dangerous and polluting conditions where workers labor on tidal sands to cut ships up by hand, exposing themselves to the risks of toxic chemicals, fires, explosions and falling steel plates. Pollutants are allowed to flow unimpeded into the marine environment. Meanwhile U.S.-based ship recyclers as well as environmental organizations such as the Basel Action Network, are wondering why the U.S. is allowing what is very likely to be illegal exports instead of recycling the ships at home and providing good American jobs.

“It is very hard to imagine how easily our government can ignore the law, poison workers, and export good U.S. jobs, all at the same time,” said Colby Self of the Basel Action Network. “But it's happening, now and on a regular basis, with the Obama Administration's U.S. ship disposal policy. Ship recycling workers in Texas have been laid off, workers are injured and poisoned half-way around the world in substandard facilities, while our government breaks its own laws. It's shameful.”

EPA ignores Control Act and Basel Convention

The PCBs, asbestos and other hazardous materials used to construct the Delaware Trader have not been properly addressed. The U.S. Maritime Administration did notify the U.S. Environment Protection Agency of probable concerns with PCB contamination given the vessel's vintage, and reminded the EPA that the vessel’s export could violate the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act. Under that act an export of any vessel containing regulated concentrations (PCBs >50 parts per million) in any material on the ship would be illegal. According to Basel Actin Network, the EPA however ignored Maritime Administration's warning and chose to simply look the other way, thereby authorizing the vessel for export to India for disposal with no assessment of PCB content in the ship. This export then is likely to be a violation of U.S. law.

The export of the "Delaware Trader" to India is also a breach of the United Nations Basel Convention, which prohibits the dumping of hazardous wastes on developing countries. While the U.S. is an active observer of Basel proceedings, the U.S. has still not formally ratified the Convention. Therefore, as a non-party state, the U.S. is not permitted to export waste to Basel-ratifying states such as India. Thus, U.S. ships that land on India’s shipbreaking beaches violate the fundamental rules of the Basel Convention and are illegal under international law.

Source: recycling portal EU

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