EPA Sues US Ship Broker for Illegal Export but Allows 'Toxic Timebomb' to Sail Away
Saipan/Seattle/New Delhi, March 20, 2008– Following a tip from the Basel Action Network (BAN) and Save the Classic Liners Campaign, the US Environmental Protection Agency has filed suit against a well known "cashbuyer" that routinely buys ships from all over the world and sends them to the notorious breaking beaches of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India for exporting the aged 682 foot ocean liner known as the SS Oceanic (previously known as the SS Independence). But the activist groups were appalled that the EPA is simply slapping a fine on the perpetrators and is not taking action to halt the violation and send the ship back to the US.
According to BAN the ship is a "toxic time bomb" for the laborers on the infamous shipbreaking beaches of South Asia as the ship is loaded with an estimated 210 tons of toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated material and an estimated 250 tons of asbestos as part of its construction. The shipbreaking operations in South Asia endanger workers and the immediate environment by failing to manage asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, and residual fuels. EPA filed suit because the export of PCBs is illegal under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA). But the government has not filed an injunction against the ongoing export. Instead the ship will likely be allowed to proceed to be dumped and managed by some of the poorest workers in the world, operating under some of the most dangerous conditions.
"The government is letting the shipowners get away with what could be tantamount to murder," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network. "It is stunning to see them merely slapping these perpeterators on the wrist and allowing the offence to continue. Why on earth is the government not demanding that the ship be turned back to US territory at once?" he asked. "Real lives may be at stake."
The ship and its tug, after leaving San Francisco Bay on February 8th, passed Hawaii and Guam without coming into port to refuel. It is now thought to be near Saipan and is being allowed to continue on its way. The lawsuit does not call for an injunction against export and the accompanying cover letter say nothing about having the ship being returned to the US and prevention of the eventual contamination in Asia other than a mere request urging GMS not to allow the release of PCBs. The maximum penalty that can be levied against the company is 32,500 dollars per day and only after March 15.
The last owner of the classic 1950 liner was Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) owned in turn by Chinese Company Star Cruises. NCL already has a reputation for negligence and evasion of international and national environmental and safety laws. NCL According to BAN and the Save the Classic Liners Campaign, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) was fully aware of this latest export well prior to the vessel being allowed to leave San Francisco Bay on 8 February and was warned about the export likely being illegal but they did nothing to stop it.
"We've seen this time and time again," said Jim Puckett, coordinator of BAN. "The US Maritime Administration turns a blind eye or even assists in the reflagging and export of toxic vessels even thought they know very well that these exports may very likely be illegal under US law, or international law. MARAD policies lead to workers and the environment suffering while the historic preservation of classic ships or our own domestic ship recycling industry is denied the business and jobs. And now EPA is merely going to fine the owners some thousands of dollars when they stand to make millions dumping poisons on Asia. Its a shameful lose lose lose scenario," he said.
An NCL shell company California Manufacturing Corporation sold the ship in July of last year to Global Marketing Services (GMS) founded by Mr. Anil Sharma. M. Sharma's website brags of buying and facilitating more than 100 ships per year being exported to Asia for scrapping.
Anybody with knowledge of the ship's whereabouts please contact:
Colby Self of Basel Action Network, phone: 18.104.22.16852, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information contact:
Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network (Seattle): 1.206.652.5555 (office), 1.206.354.0391 (cell), email@example.com
Erik James, Save the Classic Liners Campaign: 1.617.755.8570 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Corey Abelove, Save the Classic Liners Campaign: 1.770.853.1413, email@example.com
Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI): 9818089660
 http://www.ban.org/Library/SS_Independence_Waste_Stream_Estimate.pdf, conducted by ship remediation expert Mr. Werner F. Hoyt. Mr. Werner Hoyt can be contacted at: 1.530.938.1253 (office), 1.650.291.5204 (cell),WernerHoyt@aol.com
BASEL ACTION NETWORK (BAN)
c/o Earth Economics
122 S. Jackson, Suite 320
Seattle, Washington 98104 USA
Phone: 1.206.652.5555, Fax: 1.206.652.5750