Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Asbestos laden ship MV Al Arabia in Alang

MV Al Arabia (Aqaba Express, Beni Ansar) violates apex court’s order

An urgent letter from UN’s Basel Secretariat has been sent to Ministry of Environment & Forests concerning asbestos, PCB and radioactive laden the vessel named Aqaba Express (formerly Beni Ansar) that has changed its name MV Al Arabia. The ship anchored in Alang on 27 October, 2007 in violation of the September 6, 2007 order of the Supreme Court. The ship is beached in plot no. 114. Its port of registry is Moroni.

The UN official, Ms Katharina Kummer Piery's letter to R K Vaish, Joint Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division has reference to the arrest of the ship in Spain and the fact that the ship has asbestos and PCBs. The
letter suggests that the vessel left Spanish territorial waters by informing the Spanish authorities it is going to Romania for refurbishment and instead it came to Alang. As per Basel Convention, such misrepresentation is part of illegal traffic. The ship has not complied with the Court's orders of September 6, 2007 order and 14th October, 2003 that endorsed the Basel Convention and deemed it as part of right to life. Ship breaking activity must operate under the clear mandate for the decontamination (pre-cleaning) of ships of their hazardous substances including asbestos, radioactive material, waste oils, gases and both solid and liquid PCB contaminated material and any other substances covered by the Basel Convention prior to imports for breaking.

As per the exiting rules, if the ship breaking facility is not deemed by the country of import, or the country of export as possessing the capability for “Environmentally Sound Management” then import/export must be prohibited. Exporting country can be the country where a ship owner is located, a port state, or the flag state. Parties to the Convention such as India is duty bound to prohibit trade in hazardous wastes between themselves and non-Parties without a special bi/multilateral Agreement.

A Basel Party wishing to export a ship containing hazardous materials for scrapping must first notify and then receive consent from recipient country prior to export. Prior Informed Consent (PIC) paperwork is required including a notification indicating that the ship does not contain any hazardous or radioactive substances onboard. Such a notification will require full sampling and testing of various onboard materials.

The ship should be properly decontaminated by the ship owner prior to export for its breaking. In the case of MV Al Arabia (Aqaba Expres, Beni Ansar). As per the Court order, “Gas-free for hot work certificate” is mandatory for the seller of tankers before such ships are handed over to the recycling yard. Such certificates have to be obtained from the last port of call based on certificate issued by the classification society. No ship should be given a beaching permission unless Gas Free for Hot Work certificate is shown, but MV Al Arabia has not done the same.

For ship like MV Al Arabia (Aqaba Expres, Beni Ansar), the September 2007 order reiterates, “…a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous substances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking.” The same has not been complied with. Indian Platform on Ship-breaking has written to Basel Secretariat, Environment Ministry, Spanish and Romanian authorities seeking their response with regard to the illegal traffic.

According to a European Commission official, "Spain as the presumptive country of export is in the best position to take further measures, i.e. giving full information about the hazardous nature of the waste, requesting a return of the ship and/or offering cooperation on environmentally sound management elsewhere, and initiating criminal proceedings against the persons who have given false declarations towards Spanish authorities (in so far as this is criminal under Spanish law). We have pointed the Spanish MoE to these possibilities and assured them our support. The EU or Commission can play only a limited role in this context."

He added, EU is observing the effect of the recent ruling of the Indian Supreme Court on the ground. A proper application of the Court's requirements would mean that the Aqaba Express / MV Al Arabia should not be accepted for dismantling in Alang. If import countries do not even implement their own law, European intervention or UN law has limited value.

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