Foreign Ship Owners And Ship Breakers Outwitting UN’s Basel Convention, Threaten India’s Maritime Security
By Toxics Watch Alliance
17 June, 2016
Toxics Watch Alliance (TWA) disapproves of efforts by
foreign Shipowners and Shipbreakers to outwit UN’s Basel Convention on
transboundary movement of hazardous end-of-life ships, threatening
India’s maritime security and environmental and occupational health of
workers in the ship breaking facilities in Indian waters. These ship
owners have been lobbying with the Ministry of Shipping to amend the
Shipbreaking Code 2013 that was created in compliance with Supreme
Court’s order. These foreign interests have also been lobbying with
Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Ministry of Commerce and
Industry to establish a regime wherein free trade in hazardous waste
is legalized using new Hazardous waste management handling rules under
the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
TWA has learnt that at Alang, Bhavnagar four yards on the beach are
being certified as Hong Kong Convention-certified. These are namely,
Priya Blue Industries, plot no. V-1, RL Kalthia Shipbreaking, plot no.
19, Shree Ram Industries, plot no. 78 and Leela Ship Recycling, plot.
no. 2. The fact is that Hong Kong Convention is irrelevant as far as
rule of law in India is concerned. What is required is compliance with
the Basel Convention and certification for the same. There is a legal
obligation on Danish Govt to stop ship owners like Maersk from sending
its ships to Indian waters in violation of Basel Convention because
both India and Denmark are parties to Basel Convention. Unmindful of
this Maersk, a Danish company has dumped its ship Wyoming on Alang
beach in May, 2016 in a grim of reminder of an irony. Maersk Wyoming
was built in 1996 and adopting “flagging out” escape route sails under
Hong Kong flag. In a display of its manifest insincerity claims that
the plot where it is going to be dismantled is compliant with Hong
Kong Convention, a legal text which has not entered into force. The
baby is yet to take birth but Maersk says it is complying with the
dictates of the baby. It is ridiculous to make such empty claims.
Some eleven years back when a Danish ship left Danish water the then
Danish environment minister had written to Indian environment minister
and Danish foreign minister had briefed the then Indian foreign
minister in person regarding the fugitive ship that left European
On 15th April, 2005, Ms Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's environment
minister alerted her Indian counterpart A Raja about the illegal
movement of a 51 year-old asbestos laden ship, Kong Fredrick IX. The
ship was on its way to Alang ship breaking yard, Gujarat for
scrapping. The ship's new owners Jupiter Ship Management, a Mumbai
based company, had renamed it to 'MV Riky'. Hedegaard wrote: "I write
to you in a matter of great concern for me as Minister for the
Environment in Denmark - the illegal traffic of hazardous substances
in ships." She said that 'Kong Frederik IX' had left Denmark on 16
March 2005, allegedly to be put in service in the Middle East as a
cargo ship, and that it was transiting in the Suez, on its way to the
Red Sea. Hedegaard alerted Raja: "Several independent sources of
information claim that the ship is now bound for the West-Indian
coasts to be dismantled and it could arrive in India within a week.
Therefore the information given by owners etc. could be false." She
also referred to her conversation with Raja in New York at a meeting
of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and their discussing
the matter in person.
Ms Hedegaard referred to the provisions of UN's Basel Convention, of
which Denmark, India and 168 other countries are signatories. In
accordance with the Basel Convention, a ship must be characterized as
waste as the owners intend to dispose of it. Further, transboundary
movement of hazardous substances without prior notification should be
deemed as illegal traffic in waste.
The Danish minister appealed to the Indian environment minister
saying, "I believe our interests are joint - and I call on you to
co-operate in this case by denying the ship to be dismantled in India
- and refer the ship to return to Denmark to be stripped of the
hazardous waste." She added that by that, India and Denmark could send
a strong signal, that neither country would accept export of
environmental problems that could be solved locally, and that "we - as
governments - will not accept this kind of foul play which results in
lasting damage of the environment."
At around the same time as Ms Hedegaard's letter, Per Stig Moller, the
Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs also wrote to K Natwar Singh, the
then Indian Foreign Minister. This was followed-up by meetings between
Michael Sternberg, the Danish ambassador in Delhi and the Pradipto
Gosh, the top bureaucrat and Secretary at the Indian Ministry of
Environment and Forests (MoEF). Nothing changed.
On 23rd April 2005, "Riky" arrived for scrapping at Alang under the
jurisdiction of GMB. Even the flag under which the ship sailed in
isn't perfectly clear. N B Deshmukh, Assistant Commissioner, Customs
Division, Bhavnagar, Gujarat said that Riky was carrying the flag of
Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea). The ship sailed in
under the flag of Roxa, a non-existent "country".
In the present case the silence of Danish Govt. when end of life ship
Wymoning left European waters in 2016 for the plot of Shree Ram
Industries is intriguing. It demonstrates how it has now chosen to be
a mere spectator in the face of violation of its laws. Instead of
taking action or alerting Indian authorities, Danish Government
appears to have become complicit in this corporate crime as it has not
complied with its legal obligations under European and international
law. The collusion of Indian authorities with regard to the compliance
of Supreme Court’s order and Ship Breaking Code and role of Shree Ram
Industries which was involved in the case of controversial French air
craft carrier Le Clemenceau merits inquiry. Le Clemenceau was recalled
by France because its court found that the ship had violated the
European law and international law even as the Indian Supreme Court
was to give its verdict about this ship in 2005.
Maersk plans to send it’s another end-of-life ship Maersk Georgia too
for dismantling on the Alang beach.
The silence of Indian Environment Ministry demonstrates that it is
pursuing the questionable legacy of A Raja years. The lack of
safeguards in handling the various toxic contaminants at Alang beach
means that every fourth worker in Alang must be expected to contract
cancer. The rate of accident is highest in the ship breaking industry.
Some 16 % of the workers are admittedly exposed asbestos, a cancer
causing mineral which is banned in over 50 countries.
It is quite evident that European ship owners are escaping their
obligations under European Ship Recycling Regulation and Basel
Convention by ‘flagging out’ end-of-life ships from the Danish or
other European registries. This effort by Maersk clearly demonstrates
that Maersk is an irresponsible ship owner. The deafening silence of
those responsible for enforcing Indian laws, European laws and
international law in the face of the violation by Maersk, a European
company is quite stark. It undermines the reputation of these law
enforcement agencies. How can these agencies including the Secretariat
of Basel Convention remain a mute spectator of use a flag of
convenience to escape laws envisaged to protect the environmental
health and occupational health?
It is an established fact under Basel Convention’s Technical
Guidelines and recent European Commission’s technical guidelines that
a beach is not an appropriate place for hazardous industrial activity
and hazardous waste management. But it is quite bizarre that while
Commission will have us believe that it is alive to the reality of the
sensitivity of coastal environment, it visited the yards on the Alang
beach on 29th April, 2016 at the initiative of the European
Shipowners' Association (ECSA), the above mentioned shipbreakers, one
cash buyer and the entities within International Maritime Organisation
which are pandering to the whims and fancies of ship owners.
Meanwhile, not surprisingly, European Community Shipowner Association
has expressed its support for dismantling of hazardous end-of-life
ships on Alang beach by Maersk in June 2016. TWA condemns European
Shipowners' Association for its promotion of anti-environment and
anti-worker activity in a sensitive ecosystem.
While EU list of approved ship recycling facilities is expected to be
published by the end of 2016 such cozy relationship implies connivance
with the discredited beaching method of ship breaking.
The binary of "protected beach" and "unprotected beach" being created
by the vested interests is deeply problematic. The entire beach is
ecologically sensitive, industrial platform in the coastal environment
is contrary to modern coast zone regulations. If European Commission
is adopting "protected beach" stance for ship breaking as acceptable,
it amounts to making space for industry driven International Maritime
Organisation (IMO)'s Hong Kong Convention which is "unlikely to enter
into force. It is noteworthy that more than 100 global environmental
and human rights organisations, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human
Rights and Toxics and European policy makers have denounced the Hong
Kong Convention for its promotion of the status quo.
It is apparent that European political parties like political parties
elsewhere seem to be increasingly softening their stance on the issue
of hazardous waste trade under the influence of corporate donations.
Those entities which collaborate with the hazardous waste traders
compromise environmental and occupational health campaigns.
If EU Regulation goes beyond the Hong Kong Convention in its
requirements, and a beaching yard that is accepted under the HKC is
not be accepted under the European Ship Recycling Regulation then why
is Maersk allowed to send its ships to Alang in violation of Basel
Convention because both India and Denmark (EU) are parties to Basel
Convention. Hong Kong Convention is irrelevant as far as rule of law
is concerned. What is required is compliance with the Basel
Convention. There is a legal obligation on EU to stop ship owners like
Maersk and ensure that it complies with Basel Convention.
UN Special Rapporteur's assessment report on Ship breaking in India
reads:”…in India ships are dismantled on beaches, a method commonly
referred to as “beaching”. This method of ship dismantling fails to
comply with generally accepted norms and standards on environmental
protection. Although very little work has been carried out to assess
its environmental impact, the dismantling of ships on sandy beaches
without any containment other than the hull of the ship itself appears
to have caused high levels of contamination of soil, air, and marine
and freshwater resources in many South Asian countries, and to have
adversely affected the livelihood of local communities surrounding the
shipbreaking facilities, which often rely on agriculture and fishing
for their subsistence".
UN Special Rapporteur's recommends "an independent study be carried
out to assess the actual and potential adverse effects caused by the
discharge of hazardous substances and materials into the natural
environment. Such a study should also assess the steps that need to be
taken for the gradual phasing out of “beaching” in favour of more
environmentally friendly methods of shipbreaking".
The entities which choose to maintain studied silence on the issue of
implementation of Basel Convention are guilty of writing the obituary
of Basel Convention and complicit in promotion of regressive Hong Kong
Convention. The proceedings of a meeting of international scrap
recyclers had expressed happiness at the dilution of EU laws with
regard to hazardous waste trade. If European agencies fail to regulate
ship owners like Maersk it will demonstrate that the happiness of
international scrap recyclers was not misplaced.
European law enforcement agencies and the Secretariat must intervene
to stop companies like Maersk from adopting admittedly regressive
practices in order to do justice to their existence. The connivance by
these agencies at Maersk’s recent decision to send its old ships to
the fragile coastal environment like Alang beach in Indian waters
erodes their credibility because it amounts to encouragement to
violators of European Ship Recycling Regulation and Basel Convention.
It should not be forgotten that under the watch of Directorate General
of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping and Indian Coast Guard, Ministry of
Defense, Platinum II, an end-of-life ship of US origin had arrived in
Indian waters for breaking on 8th October 2009 with papers saying its
flag was that of the Republic of Kiribati and that it was owned by
Platinum Investment Services of Monrovia, Liberia. Later, official
confirmation came from the Operations Manager at Kiribati Ship
Registry, Liau Siew Leng, that the registration this ship was a
forgery who also shared a copy of the original with all the concerned
government officials. The Kiribati Ministry of Communications,
Transport & Tourism Development Office further confirmed that those
were falsified documents. The fraudulent ship registry was/is likely a
violation of maritime law of the United States, India and Kiribati.
The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) had allowed the
vessel to be sold to a non-citizen in April 2008 under the blanket
approval. This general approval however did not grant approval for the
sale of the ship for sipbreaking in a foreign country. Till date
institutional accountability for allowing the entry of this dubious
ship has not been fixed. The same holds true for the questionable
entry of RIKY, the Danish ship which entered Indian waters on a flag
of a country that did/does not exist.
Following a similar path HORIZON TRADER, a 42 year-old US built and
operated container ship beached on the Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat
in January 2016, despite the last ship owner Matson, Inc. Company
having sold it for recycling in the USA.
Such end-of-life toxic ships are entering in Indian waters in myriad
disguises exposing vulnerability of India’s maritime and environmental
The developed countries from Europe besides Japan and USA have rightly
assessed the lack of resolve in India to fight HAZARDOUS
waste-dumping. Encouraged by the safe passage granted to the fugitive
ships, by the government of India, these countries find India a
willing recipient of toxic trash. It just wants it labeled as
“recyclable material” to hoodwink the citizens as if India does not
have enough of its own toxic trash which can be branded “recyclable
material”. How is foreign waste –end-of-life product which India is
willing to handle without any competence any different from its
domestic waste which it has failed to handle forcing launch of clean
India campaign. The state of affairs must be brought under rigorous
legal scrutiny and audit in an attempt to set matters right.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660,
Eemail@example.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org