New Evidence Against Blue Lady/SS Norway

New Evidence Confirm Star Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines Deceived German Authorities
to Dispose of the Toxic Laden SS Norway to India

Brussels; New Delhi; 30 June 2006: The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, a global coalition of human rights and environmental groups working to uphold environmental justice, released a report today revealing new evidence that the third largest cruise operator in the world, Star Cruises Ltd and its subsidiary, Norwegian Cruise Lines, withheld vital information from German authorities, when they sought permission to allow their toxic waste laden vessel, the SS Norway, to depart from the Port of Bremerhaven on 25 May 2005 to Asia. The Report reveals that as early as December 2004, SCL and NCL formed the intent to dispose of the vessel, which they did not disclose to German authorities, and instead claimed that the SS Norway was going to Asia for repairs.

The Report entitled, “Star Cruises Ltd and Norwegian Cruise Lines: Deceiving Germany and Violating International Law in the Export of the SS Norway to India”, uncovered information disclosed in NCL’s 2005 Annual Report submitted to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on 28 March 2006, explaining how NCL reduced the value of the SS Norway by as much as US$14.5 million in a span of months in 2004, diminishing the SS Norway to a scrap value of US$12.3 million. The public disclosure further reveals that by December 2004, NCL’s management concluded that the sale of the SS Norway to a third party for re-use was not likely.

Citing confidential information from Pierre & Vacances, a French company, who in 2004 was able to requisition a study of the asbestos content of the vessel using the SS Norway’s ship plans and documents furnished by NCL, the Report confirms the presence of at least 1,200 tonnes of asbestos in the SS Norway. The confidential information also affirmed that at least EUR 17 million would be needed to partially decontaminate the asbestos in the vessel, more than the SS Norway’s scrap value. These facts, the Report asserts, puts into context the deception perpetrated by NCL and SCL in 2005.

“Lying to the German authorities in order to pass on tonnes of toxic wastes to unsuspecting workers in India or Bangladesh, and laying waste to the environment of South Asia is an indication of how morally bankrupt the people running Star Cruises are”, says Ingvild Jenssen, coordinator of the NGO Platform. “The management and the Board of Directors of these companies should be held criminally and civilly accountable by the German government for their actions.”

This is not the first time that NCL lied to government authorities to cover up an environmental crime. On July 31, 2002 the US Department of Justice issued a press release, entitled “Norwegian Cruise Line Admits to Environmental Crime”. In the release, the US DOJ stated that NCL “admitted that it engaged in a practice of systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years regarding the discharge of oil-contaminated bilge waste from the SS Norway and at least one other ship.” NCL signed a plea agreement acknowledging the felony violation, paid US$1 million in criminal fines and cooperated with federal official to resolve the case.[i]

The release of the findings of the NGO Platform was timed with their submission of a formal request to the Senator of Building, Environment and Transportation of Bremen, Mr. Neumeyer, demanding that Germany comply with its international obligations under the Basel Convention and its Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed nations to poorer countries, and immediately recall the SS Norway back to Germany to be decontaminated.

The European Commission also recently sent a letter to Germany asking for clarifications on whether the Basel Convention and Council Regulation no. 259/93 have been applied in the SS Norway case.

The SS Norway, the third largest cruise ship in the world after the Queen Elizabeth II and the ill-fated Titanic, was the jewel in the fleet of NCL until August of 2003, when an explosion in her boiler room killed 8 of her crew, injured 20 others, and left the vessel heavily damaged and without any propulsion. In March of 2004, NCL President, Mr. Colin Veitch publicly announced that the SS Norway would no longer ply the North American cruise market, precipitating the cat and mouse game that NCL and SCL played with various government authorities.

The NGO Platform raised concerns that the asbestos load of the SS Norway is only a portion of the problem it presents. Older vessels are known to contain the persistent organic pollutant, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, which are known to bioaccumulate in the food chain and poison top predators such as humans. PCBs are also known probable human carcinogens and are slated for globally phase out under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

“The dangers posed by the SS Norway and similar vessels are real. The level of asbestos in the SS Norway is more than double of the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, and we still have no idea how much PCBs, lead, cadmium, mercury and the other toxins are in the SS Norway,” says Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). “There is a great injustice before us, and the global community must act quickly and in unison to stop it.”

-End-

For a copy of the Report go to: http://www.ban.org/Library/Star_Cruises_Deception_Report_Final.pdf


[i] For more information on NCL’s 2002 criminal offense, visit: http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2002/July/02_enrd_441.htm.

Comments

Gopal Krishna said…
Ship-breaking industry in South Asia, be it in Alang and Mumbai, India, Chittangong in Bangladesh or Gadani in Pakistan, present a case of criminal negelct with regard to the workers safety and environmental risks.

The 'Indian Platform on Ship-breaking' has condemned the entry of the 'SS Blue Lady' (ex SS Norway, SS France) in Indian territorial waters at Gujarat's Pipavav port of Amreli district. Indian Platform on Ship-breaking has called upon authorities to act against Star Cruises Ltd who is the owner of the ship.

Admittedly, there are more than 1,200 metric tonnes of asbestos and unknown quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxic substances in the ship. India does not have the facilities or capacity to deal with asbestos, and has never dealt with PCBs. This is further corroborated by a report entitled "Memo: SS Blue Lady case-Potential hazardous materials
and removal options" by Aage Anderson. The Platform has also alerted the German Embassy in India about the illegal export of the SS Blue Lady (aka SS Norway, SS France) to Asia from Bremerhaven, Germany last 23 May 2005.

The Platform deems entry of the ship as a systematic and deliberate violation of Indian, German, EU and International law on trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste by the ship's owner Star Cruise. Star Cruises is one of the world's leading luxury liner company with presence in India as well. The Indian Supreme Court allowed the vessel to anchor off Alang on humanitarian grounds. However, the ship-owners and buyers chose not to use the lenient gesture of the Supreme Court and moved the ship to Dubai through monsoon waters endangering the crew on board.

The Platform has submitted another report entitled "Norwegian Cruise Lines and Star Cruises Ltd: Deceiving Germany and Violating International Laws in the Export of the SS Norway to India" to the Technical Experts committee appointed by the Indian Supreme Court. This report discloses new evidence on how Star Cruises and its subsidiary, Norwegian Cruise Lines, deceived German authorities of their intent to dispose of the vessel in India.

The Platform has appealed to Germany to enforce the law because the decision to scrap the ship was made before the ship left Bremerhaven in Germany. Under EU law and Basel Convention, the ship's export from Germany constitutes an illegal hazardous waste export.

Meanwhile, The International Metalworkers' Federation's (IMF) have recently published findings from a survey of over 1600 workers from the ship breaking industry in India. IMF report said, "The rate of injury is 50 workers per day and sometime workers die due to inadequate or lack of medical facility. Report of casualty is seldom made. It further says, "The service and working
conditions are very much exploitative and poor. The workers have no specific training on handling the hazardous toxic material and they are ignorant of its ill effects" amid "absence of labour legislations."

These workers are among the most vulnerable workers in our sectors, constantly migrating in search of seasonal jobs in the shipyards, subject to ruthless employers who are callous about their occupational health and safety and totally ignored by the political authorities. Workers in Alang face daily exploitation and exposure to life-threatening hazards due to the inability of the government to establish and enforce standards.

The Supreme Court's Technical Committee's recommendations allowing Blue Lady to enter into India on 5th June, 2006 were made without hearing the petitioner, without adequate information or the legally mandated paperwork, and in violation of the Supreme Court's own order of October 2003 which seeks prior decontamination and an inventory of hazardous wastes on board.

The entry of the ship is highly irregular, considering that the Government has not insisted on Court-mandated paperwork for such imports. The Technical Committee admits that no comprehensive inventory of toxic substances is available, and the quantity of PCB-contaminated material is not known. There is no documentation to prove that Haryana Ship Demolitions has even purchased the ship. No mention is made of the fact that the Government of Bangladesh rejected the ship on environmental grounds. The ship owner and ship breaker have misled the Supreme Court of India by providing wrong information to a Technical Committee set up by the Court in February 2006. The ship owner sought permission for anchoring off Alang citing
"difficulties due to monsoon storm" after having timed the ship's departure to coincide with monsoons after an 8-month wait in Malaysia.

Meanwhile in Chittagong, Bangladesh two workers died in two different accidents in the shipyard of Chittagong in last week. Motin of loader group, died when a big iron piece fall on his body while he was slipped by the mud. He was working in a shipyard named Chittagong Ship cutting yard. Its confirmed that the worker was working bare foot. Another worker died in the shipyard named Harun Steel. He died when he was climbing to get up to the ship by ropes. Suddenly the rope was cut and he fell and died. It was known that the rope was not strong enough. Workers are dying because of carelessness of shipbreaking owners. Evidently, there is paucity of safety for workers.

One of the High Court has ordered the government to formulate policy to ensure workers’ safety and protect environment pollution. The court said as MT Alfa was identified as a cargo ship and it can’t be beached for scrapping in the shipbreaking yard of Bangladesh, according to the Basel Convention.
This order of the court will discourage the shipbreaking owners to import toxic ship for cutting.

Generally, the names of the workers who get injured and those who die is not disclosed in media. In such a situation media urgently needs a course in Labour Journalism.
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