USEPA complaint targets city-based business

CUMBERLAND ­ An attorney for Global Shipping and Global Marketing Systems said Friday the company intends to “cooperate fully” in regard to a federal complaint filed this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

Robert Basseches said he has advised GMS owner Anil Sharma and all employees of the Cumberland-based companies from commenting on the complaint, which alleges a violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Specifically, the EPA said that a ship owned by GMS, the MV Oceanic, has PCB-containing materials on board. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in coolants, insulating fluids and as stabilizing additives in flexible PVC coatings of electrical wiring and electrical components. The U.S. banned the use of PCBs in 1978.

“Federal law prohibits companies from exporting PCBs, including those in ships, that are sent overseas to be scrapped,” Rich Vaille, associate director for waste program enforcement in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region, said in a news release. “When companies illegally export PCB waste, they are circumventing U.S. requirements for proper disposal. PCB waste must be properly disposed to protect public health and the environment.”

GMS has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint to avoid a penalty assessment without a hearing. Fines can extend up to $32,500 per violation per day.
“Global has been in contact with the EPA,” Basseches said. “We have indicated we want to cooperate with them. We intend to cooperate fully to meet their concerns.”

“The EPA was not informed by Global of their intention to export the ship for disposal,” the EPA news release said.

The ship’s previous owners, Norwegian Cruise Lines, bought the ship with the intent to put it into service in the U.S. The paperwork showing Norwegian Cruise Lines had sold the ship was not submitted to the U.S. Maritime Administration before the ship set sail Feb. 8 out of the San Francisco Bay.

“Vessels such as the MV Oceanic ... were commonly constructed with PCB-containing materials including cables, electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers, watertight seal material and painted surfaces,” the EPA said.

The MV Oceanic, formerly the Independence, was built in the early 1950s and is 682 feet long. The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday that many privately-owned ships may have been scrapped overseas “with scant attention paid by federal authorities to the tons of PCBs they likely carry with them and in conflict with a U.S. law banning PCB waste exports.”

The process known as reflagging or reregistering a ship ready for the scrapyard under a new foreign owner “is a long-standing regulatory process.”

But the Monitor claimed that the Maritime Administration, the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard do not “routinely monitor whether ship owners are complying with warnings on the reflagging application that they must obey U.S. environmental laws.”

The Monitor further reported that the recycling business yields up to $700 a ton in Bangladesh, or about $20 million for a typical retired tanker.

Established in 1998, GMS is an international trade consulting business dealing primarily in the buying and selling of ships that are no longer seaworthy. The company buys and sells ships from all over the world, mostly to shipbreakers in India, for recycling.

GMS’ world headquarters is located on the fourth floor of the Lila building, formerly the American Trust Building, at the corner of Baltimore and Centre streets.

Kevin Spradlin
Cumberland Times-News

Contact Kevin Spradlin at kspradlin@times-news.com .

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