Ships beach at Alang without any safety certificate
NEW DELHI: Even as interested parties have approached the Supreme Court for clarification on its orders on shipbreaking safety norms, 88 ships have illegally beached at Alang in Gujarat without prior decontamination or requisite safety certificates.
The court, in its order in September 2007, had ordered that all ships being beached in India should compulsorily carry the "Certificates for Gas Free for Hot Work".
Even as these "dead" ships beach at Alang, various government agencies involved in the issue and the ship recyclers’ association have gone back to the apex court seeking clarifications on its orders.
Another clarification has been sought by the original applicant in the case, Gopalkrishna. The ship recyclers’ association wants the safety norms prescribed by the court in its 2007 order, which itself was a reiteration of an earlier 2003 order, to be modified and the norms eased.
The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), which is supposed to provide the safety certificates after due testing, has filed another plea claiming that these certificates are not necessary.
The Gujarat Maritime Board has filed yet another demanding that PESO and other agencies follow up on the court order.
The certification is considered an important aspect for worker safety, as there have been several cases of explosions on board in the past while breaking down these dead ships. PESO has suggested that only ships that used to carry oil should be checked.
Its opinion is contrary to the suggestion of the Technical Experts Committee on hazardous waste set up by the SC before delivering its last order. The panel had recommended ‘gas free’ certificate for all ships that are to be beached in the country for breaking.
Besides the safety concerns being thrown aside by the beached 88 ships, the issue of national security too has been raised earlier against not-so-above-board trade in dead ships.
28 Apr 2008, Nitin Sethi
The Times of India
2. Indian waters under massive threat from dumping of unprecedented number of toxic ships
Ch. Narendra, 26/4/2008
Massive underground water contamination and marine pollution at Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat has remained unaddressed for last 25 years.
The local community relies on basic industries such as fishery and agriculture and is exposed to discharges and emissions to sea, ground and air. Indeed, lack of containment to prevent toxins from entering the food chain is a major concern. But the wilful criminal negligence and greed of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Gujarat Maritime Board officials have endangered the communities and workers and environment in league with the union environment ministry.
In South Asia, ship-breaking takes place in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The workers in this industry are the most vulnerable workforce in the world with high rate of chemical and asbestos exposure. In India, Alang ship-breaking yard is located in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. It is located 288 km northwest of Mumbai. The number of accidents and casualties of workers at the yard has attracted global attention. With 16 % of workers officially exposed to asbestos and with the accident rate of 2 workers per 1000, Alang is not safe but it safer than the ship-breaking activities in Gadani, Pakistan and Chittagong, Bangladesh
There is insincerity in safeguarding the occupational health and environmental security. The failure to ensure that all hazardous materials on board the ship are pre-cleaned in the country of export prior to delivery of the ship for dismantling is well known.
Especially post Clemenceau and SS Norway (Blue Lady), US and developed countries from Europe have been callous towards the adverse consequences for not only the environment but also for occupational safety and health of the workers because they do not ensure that the ships get pre-cleaned in the country of export. They pretend to be ignorant of the toxic affects to both the local surrounding, environment and society.
The current flood of toxic ships is a direct result of a weak Supreme Court orders of September 2007. The journey of the apex court from being a protector of the environment to becoming a threat to environment seems complete.