Alang faces enviro-occupational health catastrophe

Violating court’s order, 30 ships beach without pre-cleaning

The Hazardous Wastes/ship breaking case came up in the court today. Gopal Subramaniam, Additional Solicitor General was given eight weeks to respond to the applications pending before the court. Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, former Additional Solicitor General represented the SRIA sought an early hearing.

It has come to light that in violation of apex court’s order, 30 ships have beached in Alang. Now Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA), India is seeking modification of the court’s order that was based on the recommendations of the Technical Experts Committee on Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship-breaking to ensure that these ships including Blue Lady gets dismantling permission.

There are at four applications pending before the court in the wake of the September 6 and September 11, 2007 order by the Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia bench. The court had directed that "The notification issued by Gujarat Maritime Board in 2001 on gas free for hot work, should be made mandatory and no ship should be given a beaching permission unless this certificate is shown. Any explosion irrespective of the possession of certification should be dealt with sternly and the licence of the plot-holder should be cancelled and the Explosives Inspector should be prosecuted accordingly for giving the false certificate." The beaching of these ships without the gas free for hot work is in violation of the court. The Prayers of SRIA include direction for GMB to extend the lease of plots for a period of 25 years upon the expiry of leases in 2009, exemption from cancellation of license of the plot holder in the event of explosion, the order be made ship recycling facility specific and not ship specific and pending the disposal of the hearing and final disposal of the applications and /or pending necessary regime/framework/systems required for the implementation of 6th September order be kept in abeyance or deferred.

It is noteworthy that Bhagvatsinh Haubha Gohil, Sarpanch of Sosiya, Tehsil Talaja has filed an application on behalf of 30, 000 people who live within the distance of 1 to 25 Kms. from the ship breaking yard at Alang before Justice Balakrishnan bench who listed the matter for hearing before the Justice Pasayat and Justice Kapadia bench in the Blue Lady case but the same was not heard till date. These people largely depend on sea food that is under threat from ship-breaking. The ship in question contains large amount of asbestos that poses huge risk of exposure to the villagers. Their application is yet to be heard.

Ships like Riky, Le Clemenceau, Blue Lady are a classic cases of corruption and cover up in front of a live international audience that has led to a situation where established laws that were set up to protect the workers and the environment are being violated with impunity. There will be a very high price to pay for the breakup of these contaminated ships. If like a recycling and management plan, a liability management plan is prepared, it would clearly put a very heavy financial burden on Star Cruises and NCL. The fact of the matter is that there is no credible evidence in the court’s record to suggest that any Indian buyer has purchased the ship. These ships form part of the blackest chapters of the maritime history and deserve to be investigated thoroughly.

The court has asked GMB to prepare a model ship-breaking yard, had asked them to identify yards where asbestos is handled and provide personal protective equipments to the workers. Till date there is no progress in that regard. It must be remembered that 6th September, 2007 order reiterated 14th October, 2003 order that was based on exhaustive work by Prof. MGK Menon Committee constituted by the court. These prayers amount to seeking mutilation of the landmark order and it amounts to undoing all the previous work done to ensure environmental and occupation safety.

There are at four applications pending before the court in the wake of the September 6 and September 11, 2007 order by the Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia bench. The court had directed that "The notification issued by Gujarat Maritime Board in 2001 on gas free for hot work, should be made mandatory and no ship should be given a beaching permission unless this certificate is shown. Any explosion irrespective of the possession of certification should be dealt with sternly and the licence of the plot-holder should be cancelled and the Explosives Inspector should be prosecuted accordingly for giving the false certificate." The beaching of these ships without the gas free for hot work is in violation of the court’s order.

After Riky and Blue Lady, the ship breakers have once again created a situation where the court is sought to advance the argument of fait accompli since it has been claimed incorrectly that beaching is an irreversible process. The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) have failed to ensure compliance with the court order. This tantamounts to violation of the court’s order since all ships have radioactive materials, AERB is required to inspect all ships that come to Alang. At the behest of the ship-breakers, this PESO is now misleading the court into believing that only oil tankers have to have gas free certificates. There is no difference between petroleum and non-petroleum ships as far as hazards to workers are concerned.As per the official announcement "Authority and Responsibilities of Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation [PESO] (formerly Department of Explosives) includes "Examination of petroleum tanks in sea going vessels for issuing gas free certificates for allowing hot work, entry of man in such tanks and entry of such vessels in docks."

The Supreme Court had also directed Government of India to constitute a new Committee consisting of Ministry of Environment and Forests, GPCB, GMB, AERB that shall verify all the documents before ship is allowed for breaking. This committee is yet to be formed. Also the court had held that “The ship breaking operation referred to above cannot be permitted to be continued without strictly adhering to all precautionary principles, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines and taking the requisite safeguards which have been dealt extensively in the report of precautionary principles, CPCB guidelines and taking the requisite safeguards which have been dealt with extensively in the report of High Power Committee on Hazardous Wastes which include the aspect of the working conditions of the workmen.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
The tanker MV Atlantida, at present anchored at the Singapore Port, was purchased by a Bangladesh ship-breaker, but the deal was cancelled.

Now its owners M/s Tsakos Shipping & Trading in Greece and Mandassia Marine in Cyprus were negotiating with the Pakistani ship-breaker.

Atlantida, built in 1980 and registered in Liberia since Oct 30, 2005, has a capacity of 87,542DWT.

This oil tanker that is loaded with toxic chemicals and it is being purchased by a Pakistani ship-breaker.

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