07 August 2012

India invokes hazardous waste rules on its shipbreaking industry:

Indian ship recyclers have been forced to adhere to the Basel Convention regarding the import of hazardous wastes.

Faced with a petition from Indian-based environmental organisation ToxicsWatch Alliance, on 30th July, India’s Supreme Court ruled that vessels arriving for recycling in Indian waters containing hazardous materials, such as asbestos or PCBs, must follow the Basel Convention on global movements of hazardous wastes.

This ruling means that India can no longer accept ships from Europe, or the US. It also means that India must first be notified as to all hazardous materials contained on board and must approve ship importation from all sources for scrapping, prior to the vessel’s arrival in India, Basel Action Network said.

Previous to this decision and despite India being a Party to the Basel Convention, the country has ignored its Basel legal obligations with respect to ships, the organisation claimed.

“Finally, the Supreme Court in India has dragged its government to face the fact that India for a long time has been violating international law with respect to its uncontrolled imports of toxic ships for scrapping on its beaches. It will no longer be able to do so,” said Basel Action Network director Jim Puckett. “Hundreds of poor and desperate labourers have been killed or exposed to hazardous chemical, as a result of the disastrous shipbreaking practices on Indian beaches; hopefully this ruling will be the beginning of the end of the dark ages of ship recycling.”

Beaching operations in South Asia are known for environmental and human rights violations, where workers are routinely injured, crippled and killed from explosions and occupational exposure to hazardous substances.

Last weekend, a shipbreaking worker fell to his death from a ship beached in Bangladesh, the fifth death in Bangladesh this year. In 2011 alone, 28 workers were killed at Alang beach. The inquiries in such deaths are never made public.

However positive the Indian Supreme Court’s directives, the Court decided that the former ‘Exxon Valdez’, a vessel whose arrival in Indian waters prompted the environmentalists to act, will be the last ship to arrive in India without the Basel rules being applied.

It is unclear why the court exempted the vessel from its own orders. Indian authorities claimed that their inspection did not reveal any hazardous materials on board the vessel as cargo.

However, they could not determine what hazardous waste was contained in the ship’s structure, which most likely includes PCBs, asbestos, and residual fuels among many others, according to the NGO shipbreaking platform.

Source: tanker operator. 3 August 2012

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