Environmentalist group, ToxicsWatch Alliance, has raised alarm bells against the permission being granted to a “hazardous” and “dead” US ship Exxon Valdez to dock in Alang beach, Gujarat.

The ship has been allowed to enter Indian waters in violation of the Supreme Court order, says an open letter by Mr Gopal Krishna, Convenor, TWA, written to the CBI Director, Mr A.P Singh, with copies marked to all the Ministers and authorities concerned at the Centre and Gujarat.

“In violation of the Supreme Court order dated May 3, 2012, in the matter of dead US ship Exxon Valdez/shipbreaking/hazardous wastes/case (Writ Petition Civil 657 of 1995), it is reliably learnt that the hazardous and end-of-life US vessel has got permission to anchor off Bhavnagar from the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) on June 28, 2012,” it said.

The letter said the vessel, moving to Bhavnagar under the pretext of inspection by the GMB and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), was carrying hazardous materials such as asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls that posed a grave threat to the marine environment as well as workers who handle it.

Referring to the hearing on the matter on June 25, 2012, wherein the court refused the shipowner of ex Exxon Valdez any relief, the letter said the vacation bench of Justice Mr H. L. Gokhle and Justice Ms Ranjana Prakash Desai ordered that the matter of dead US ship Exxon Valdez should be placed before the appropriate bench.

Mr Krishna said apart from the threat to the marine ecology, workers too faced grave danger. “Workers labour on tidal sands to cut ships up by hand, exposing themselves to the risk of toxic chemicals, fires, explosions and falling steel plates,” he said, and added that dismantling the hazardous vessel could not be achieved on a tidal beach, as was currently being done.

The letter cautioned against the entry of another dead and hazardous US flagged ship, Delaware Trader (IMO No. 8008929) which had been cleared by the US Maritime Administration for dismantling in the shipbreaking yards of Alang. “It (the ship) was last reported at the Port of Maputo, Mozambique on 13 June, 2012,” he said, and demanded that it be stopped from entering Indian waters immediately.

Pointing out that over 5,000 dead foreign ships had been dumped at Alang since 1982 threatening the maritime environment, TWA urged the CBI and other agencies concerned to co-ordinate their efforts to stop the “green washing “ of sins by countries such as the US in vulnerable places such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

(This article was published on June 29, 2012)
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