Its Official, Supreme Court’s Order on Shipbreaking Violated

GMB, Customs Admit that Inability to Verify Fake Documents of Ship Owners

Documents of Dead Ships Currently on Alang Beach be Probed

New Delhi, 2/6/2011

In an Office Memorandum No.29-3/2009-HSMD, Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests, (HSM Division) dated 9th May, 2011 relating to implementation of Supreme Court directions in respect of ship breaking activities, it has been admitted that the issue regarding the submission of fake certificates by the ship owners/agents remains unresolved. The Memorandum is attached.

file image of Gulf Jash

Consequently, the identity of ship owners like those of Gulf_Jash, an end-of-life European vessel remains hidden behind corporate veils. In the matter of toxic US ship Platinum II (Ex-SS Independence, MV Oceanic), ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had provided documentary evidence of fake documents to the Environment Ministry which was referred to the Ministry of Steel. It wrote a letter to Shri S. Machendranathan Chiarman, Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on shipbreaking (constituted by Supreme Court’s 14th October, 2003 order) drawing his attention to non-compliance with the Court’s order and the issue of the hazardous and dead European vessel on 1st June, 2011. The copies of the letter have been sent to the Union Ministers of Environment and Shipping and other senior officials.

It has come to light from the Office Memorandum dated May 2011 that Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF)’s Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking has suggested that since Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Customs were not able to verify the authenticity/genuineness of ship’s registry/flag in the fast in respect of some ships referred to them, this task in respect of each ship may be referred to the Directorate General Shipping, Ministry of Shipping ought to undertake such verification henceforth. The GMB officials informed MoEF that “the suggestion of the committee is acceptable to them subject to such verification by DG Shipping is done within a period of 2 working days.  If no information is received from the DG Shipping within 2 working days, it will be presumed that the certificate submitted is authentic and genuine.” TWA disapproves of such presumption of genuineness of fabricated documents. It demands that documents of some 120 dead ships currently on Alang Beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat must be investigated.

The Committee observed that “at present there is no single point access to the yards and therefore, hazardous waste is being illegally dumped at various places. It was suggested to have a single point access to the yards in order stop such illegal dumping activity.”

It has come to light from the report of the site visit of the committee that they visited the existing Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facility (TSDF) site and it was observed that the existing cell is almost full. TWA has confirmed it from the sources in the ship breaking industry that the TSDF is full. The report of the site visit by SMC is attached above.

Before it was filled up Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure Ltd (GEPIL),  Alang Unit has been operating and maintaining Common Hazardous waste TSDF on behalf of GMB, since October’ 2005.The site was constructed and developed by GMB. GEPIL was awarded this TSDF for Operation and Maintenance through competitive Bidding Process in September’ 2005. Its total Notified Area is 7 hectares. The site is situated at Alang Ship breaking yard. It is designed to collect, transport, Receipt, Store, treat and dispose off wide range of hazardous waste. GEPIL (Alang Unit) is also associated with Sweeping, collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of Municipal wastes generated during the ship breaking activities. GEPIL (Unit Alang) has been providing its services to more than 80 industries of region. The facility receives wastes from Ship breaking and Ship recycling industrial sectors. In its myopia GMB has suggested that “they may raise the height of the embankment of the cell and compress the existing material to enhance its capacity within designed parameters. This work needs to be taken up on urgent basis to ensure that this facility is available to shipbreakers at the existing site at least for another one year.”

TWA disapproves of creation such facilities for hazardous wastes that originated in developed countries. The million dollar question is that even if this is done what happens after one year and the year thereafter. Will Bhavnagar become a Hazardous Waste TSDF capital for the ship owning companies and countries in order to appear vibrant to the developed world?

Given the emergency situation that has emerged for the GMB, the SMC informed to the stakeholders that without the TSDF facility the shipbreaking activities should not be allowed by the GPCB as per the Supreme Court directions.  It is evident to TWA that the shipbreaking activity that is currently in operation is happening in the absence of TSDF, thus, in clear violation of the Court’s directions.

SMC has recommended that “ship breaking yard shall not commence breaking of the ship till such time proper decontamination certificate is issued by GPCB after thorough inspection.” This recommendation does not take cognizance of Hon’ble Court’s order that reads, “(16) At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on ship-breaking at the level of the International Maritime Organisation and the Basel Convention’s Technical Working Group with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous sub-stances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking.”  One of the fourteen Terms of Reference on which the High Powered Committee was to give its report and recommendations “Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India for breaking.” The apex court’s order endorsed Basel Convention.

SMC has suggested that monitoring of asbestos in ambient air at shipbreaking yards on Alang beach “shall be commissioned by GMB for carrying out the same by a reputed institute like NIOH, as a one time study.” TWA has been demanding that asbestos cannot be handled safely or in a controlled manner. Therefore, International Labour Organisation’s resolution of June 2006 and World Health Organisation’s resolution of 2005 seek elimination of future use of asbestos. Indian workers in general and migrant workers of Alang should not be made to handle asbestos under any situation.

TWA demands that Gujarat Pollution Board (GPCB) should make the study for sea water and sediment analysis public so that the extent of pollution at Alang beach can be comprehended.

Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking comprises of (1) Dr. M. Subba Rao, Director, MoEF, (2) Shri B. R. Naidu, Scientist-D and Zonal Officer, CPCB, Vadodara (3) Shri B. D. Ghosh, Addl. Industrial Adviser, Ministry of Steel, (4) Capt. J. S. Uppal, Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Department, DG Shipping, (5) Dr. S. R. Tripathi, Asstt. Director, NIOH, and  (6) Dr. R. R. Tiwari, Scientist-C, NIOH. SMC visited the Ship Breaking Yards on Alang beach on 24th January, 2011.

TWA demands that the funds collected by GMB and Steel Ministry’s Ferrous Scrap Committee (FSC) must be used for remediation and decontamination of Alang beach and for workers and villagers’ environmental and occupational health rights.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com, Blog: imowatch.blogspot.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.com

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