April 28th, 2012
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Former US toxic ship entry in Indian waters challenged in SC

alang-shipbreaking-yardAhmedabad: A mammoth 300,000-tonne US tanker whose recent name is Oriental Nicety which was responsible for the the worst-ever oil spills in Alaska in 1989 has entered Indian waters. The end of life ship has entered Indian waters in the name of dismantling and recycling.

The 213,000-tonne tanker, which was repaired and converted into ore-carrying vessel after the accident, is said to be headed for Alang, the biggest ship recycling yard in Asia, located in the Gulf of Cambay. An application has been filed in Supreme Court with regard to this matter. The case will be heard on May 3, 2012.

Oriental Nicety has had many names in the past, including Exxon Valez, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean and Dong Fang Ocean, has been banned entry in both the US and European waters. The ship is said to have been purchased by Best Oasis Company, a subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd.

Following the 1989 oil spill in which this tanker offloaded nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska (described as US’ second-worst environmental disaster), the owners of the ship had to fork out $ 507.5 million in environmental damages and spend over $30 million in repairing this ship. Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance points out, “This purchase is in violation of the Supreme Court order of 2003 that states all ships must be pre-cleaned before they enter the Indian water. It is also in violation of the UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal of which India is a signatory.”

Environmentalists worldwide have condemned it as a “toxic” ship. However, Gujarat pollution control board said that Alang, which has always remained on the radar of environmentalists, faces no imminent threat from the vessel. “It is no more an oil tanker. It is just an ore transporting vessel after conversion. So we don’t think there can be any hazardous material in the ship,” said a senior GPCB officer.

The applicant has requested the court to direct the Union of India to ensure that no end-of-life ship should be allowed without prior decontamination in the country of export. The applicant has also asked the court to direct the State to send back all hazardous wastes laden end-of-life ships entering/ or have entered the Indian territorial waters without prior informed consent and without prior decontamination keeping in view the environmental principles. Alang beach remains a security concern with more than 5924 end-of-life ships beached so far.


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