US Toxic Ship Lands in India
US Government Accused of Failing to Enforce Toxic Export Ban
SEATTLE - The
worst fears of environmentalists and human rights acitvists have been
confirmed as it has been discovered this month that an aging American
ocean liner, the SS Oceanic (formerly SS Independence),
one believed to contain significant quantities of asbestos and toxic
PCB chemicals in its structure, has now arrived at the infamous Alang,
India shipbreaking yards  with a new name – Platinum II.
The ship will be scrapped in contravention of US and international law
unless government action on the part of US or Indian authorities is
taken as a matter of urgency.
made headlines in 2008 when its former owners, Global Shipping LLC
(GSL) and Global Marketing Systems Inc. (GMS) (both of Maryland and
part of the Mr. Anil Sharma family’s shipbreaking, cashbuying and
brokerage interests), were charged by the US government with illegal
export of PCBs for disposal and use in commerce under the Toxics
Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA acted after the Basel
Action Network (BAN) warned that the ship was likely to be carrying
PCBs and was known to be headed for the scrapping beaches of South
Asia. To avoid a court case to contest this charge, the former owners
paid over one half million dollars as a settlement. After EPA
pressed charges, the owners denied that the ship was going to be sent
for breaking on the beaches of South Asia as the EPA and environmental
groups feared and instead claimed it was to be reused as a ship by its
law exists to protect other countries from the scourge of toxic PCBs,
and yet we continually fail to diligently enforce these laws,” said Mr. Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN, a member organization of the global NGO Platform on Shipbreaking. “It
is clear now that the government made a terrible mistake in letting
this ship sail away. It is now incumbent on the administration to do
everything in its power to require India to repatriate the ship for
proper toxic waste management as the law requires.”
BAN has learned that the Maritime Administration (MARAD) aided and
abetted the escape of the ship to a foreign jurisdiction by approving
the sale of the vessel to a foreign buyer while the EPA was
taking legal action against the owners. MARAD sent a letter to GSL in
June 2008 offering support for the foreign transfer of the ship to
Platinum Investment Services Corp. based in Monrovia, Liberia.
Platinum Investment Services appears to be a “mailbox company:” under
Liberian law, a company may register without publicly revealing an
address, any principle owners, board members or spokespersons of any
kind. The company has no office, no website and has no known history
of ship operations. It is likely that MARAD’s authorization of the
sale of the ship hampered the EPA’s own legal efforts to demand the
ship be returned for proper testing and remediation.
India, the ship’s arrival violates the Basel Convention to which India
is a Party. Under that United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
treaty, India is not allowed to receive hazardous waste from the United
States. Nor can it receive hazardous waste from any foreign source
without prior notification of arrival and consent from the Indian
government. No such notification or consent was provided in advance of
the sudden arrival of the toxic ship. Further, the ship's arrival
violated the Supreme Court of India’s order of 14th October 2003 and
6th September 2007, which calls for the pre-cleaning of ships of all
toxic substances prior to importation.
The incident is reminiscent of the infamous export of the French Aircraft Carrier Le Clemenceau,
which in 2006 was exported to India for breaking from France. French
courts finally realized the export was a violation of the Basel
Convention and demanded the return of the ship.
Oceanic's arrival off the Gujarat beaches makes India an international
crime scene, with the Maritime Administration abetting such crimes,” said Mr. Puckett. “The
last time something like this happened, the authorities of the
exporting country called the ship back and took responsibility. We
are calling on the authorities of India and the US to do nothing less.”
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The Platinum II
now rests at anchorage off Gopnath point approximately 40 nautical
miles from the Alang coast while Indian state authorities decide her
fate. GMS denies any ownership of the vessel or of the mystery firm
Platinum Investment Services Corp. However, the vessel is slated for
breaking at the Leela Ship Recycling plot in Alang, which is owned by
Komal Sharma, brother to Anil Sharma, owner of GMS.
For more information contact:
Mr. Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, 206.652-5555, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ship-breaking on Alang Beach is well known for its occupational hazards
as workers in the scrapping operations are exposed daily to deadly
hazards such as asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, and residual fuels. Death
by fire, steel crushing, and cancer are all too common. The Gujarat
Maritime Board (GMB) acknowledges 372 reported deaths from 1983 to 2004
at Alang, however Greenpeace and the International Federation of Human
Rights suggest actual death rates are more than twice that at 50-60
deaths per year. See: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.
 In February 2008, the SS Oceanic
quietly departed from San Francisco Bay under tow and in breach of the
U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In January 2009, nearly one
full year after its illegal departure, the EPA settled with owners,
Global Shipping LLC (GSL) and Global Marketing Systems, Inc. (GMS), for
illegal export of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which exist within
the construction of the vessel. GMS and GSL were ordered to pay
$518,500 in U.S. court as part of the settlement.
 See copy of settlement: http://www.ban.org/Library/
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