SS Oceanic poses threat to health & environment

The former U.S.-flag liner SS Oceanic (formerly SS Independence) poses any toxic threat to Guam. The ship left San Francisco on February 8 under tow for scrapping in India. The move has not pleased the Basel Action Network, an environmental group concerned about the export of toxic ships and has also upset preservationists who would like to see the U.S. the National Historic Preservation Act used to prevent its being scrapped.

USEPA has concern about a "potential legal risk" of export violation under the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act.

Alert for toxic ship

THE U.S. Coast Guard and the Guam Environmental Protection Agency are on alert for the possible arrival of the contaminated cruise liner, SS Independence, which is reportedly heading to Guam after being refused entry in Hawaii. “In order for the vessel to come to Guam, they have to send a request for entry. And if they were to request entry, they have to file a 96-hour notice of arrival. They still have four days to file the request,” said Lt. Marquez Hirschberg, spokesman for Coast Guard.

Hirschberg said Coast Guard officials on Guam have been in contact with Guam EPA and their counterparts in Hawaii to monitor the vessel’s location. SS Independence, which is believed to be loaded with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB and lung-damaging asbestos, is being pulled by the tug ship Pacific Hickory, on the way to India, where the 57-year-old cruises liner will be scrapped.

With the disabled vessel in tow, Pacific Hickory reportedly attempted to stop in Hawaii to refuel but both ships were turned away by Hawaii EPA and the Coast Guard because of the health risk posed by PCB and asbestos contamination. “We believe they are still in Hawaii,” Hirshberg said. “The Coast Guard has the authority to prevent them from entering Guam based on Guam EPA’s recommendation. We are keeping an eye on the situation and we have been in communication with the Coast Guard legal office in Washington D.C.”

Tammy Anderson, Guam EPA’s public information officer, said the agency is on the watch but no recommendation has been made so far. “Guam has not been officially notified (of the ship’s possible entry), so we can’t make any decision at this point,” Anderson said. Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Pangelinan, (D-Barrigada) wrote to Gov. Felix Camacho requesting that the government of Guam take an official stand and stop the possible entry of the SS Independence.

Pangelinan urged the governor to immediately direct all appropriate agencies to block the contaminated ship from entering Guam’s port and waters. “I respectfully request that you exercise all due caution on this matter that would have grave environmental consequences on the people of Guam,” Pangelinan said. “With Hawaii successfully rejecting the ship’s entry, I see no reason why Guam cannot do the same with the interest of our people's health and safety at hand.”

The international activist group called Save the Classic Liners has urged the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA to impound the SS Independence, warning that breaking it down in Asia would release toxic PCBs and asbestos. SS Independence was towed out of its berth on the San Francisco waterfront last week, after being mothballed for years.

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
February 25, 2008


Ship containing PCBs, asbestos may refuel on Guam

February 25, 2008

The disabled cruise liner the S.S. Independence, reported to be loaded with PCB and asbestos, may be making its way to Guam. KITV News out of Hawaii is reporting that the tugship Pacific Hickory is towing the vessel. Documentation obtained by KUAM says the vessel is on its way to Singapore to be scrapped, and that in order to continue on refueling may need to take place locally.

According to Hope Cristobol, former senator and Chamorro rights activist, the ship was denied entry into Hawaii by the Environmental Protection Agency because says it poses too much of a health risk. Lieutenant Marcus Hershberg with the U.S. Coast Guard says they are aware that the Independence will be passing near our island, but says no notice of arrival has been received just yet.

Guam urged to refuse entry to toxic liner

A former Guam senator has expressed concern that a disabled cruise liner loaded with banned toxic substances will stop in Guam.

Marianas Variety reports the SS Independence, now called the Oceanic, is being towed by a tug boat, which needs to refuel before heading to India where the cruise liner will be scrapped.

The 57-year-old cruise liner is reportedly loaded with asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls, both of which are banned substances because of their toxic threat.

The tug and the liner have already been refused entry in Hawaii.

Guam activist and former senator, Hope Cristobal, has asked the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to stop both ships from entering Guam.

She says the ship was refused entry into Hawaii by the local EPA because it posed a health risk.

She says if the ship is allowed near Guam, it will be very dangerous.

Radio Australia, Feb 25, 2008

Cruise ship likely headed to scrapyard

February 23, 2008

Question: What ever happened to the SS Independence?

Answer: The historic ocean liner is rumored to be heading to a scrapyard in Alang, India.

The SS Independence, nicknamed "Indy," sailed around the islands for 21 years for American Classic Voyages Co. A month after the terrorist attacks of September 2001, the company declared bankruptcy due to a significant drop in revenue.

Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the vessel two years later, but NCL sold the vessel through a broker to an unnamed buyer last summer, according to a spokeswoman. Ship historian Peter Knego of Moorpak, Calif., said NCL considered renovating the vessel for cruise service, but it was not cost-effective.

The vessel departed San Francisco on Feb. 8.

A San Francisco port manager, Leon Hall, declined to comment on the ship's destination, but Knego said it is believed to be headed to a scrapyard in India.

The vessel was renamed Oceanic last year. According to Knego, a ship is renamed when it is being prepared for disposal.

The Independence and its sister ship, the Constitution, were built in the early 1950s. In 1997 the Constitution sank on its way to the scrapyard.

Knego said both ocean liners had a classic look with terrace decks and steam turbines. The vessel, however, would not be considered fuel-efficient by today's standards.

In July 2001 the Independence received the 2000 Ship of the Year award by the Steamship Historical Society of America.

Knego, who sailed aboard the Independence twice, said, "Unfortunately, it's the end of the Indy. ... This is the very last ship of their kind."

The Independence is expected to reach the scrapyard by the end of March or mid-April.

This update was written by Star-Bulletin reporter Rosemarie Bernardo.

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Anonymous said…
Everyone should review/listen to the interview of the Coast Guard master for guam and hawaii who explains the issue of paper and contamination with EPA versus the viability of credible threat to natural or human health and safety while in transit or Pacific Hickory is refueling and that the EPA must pursue the concerns with documents iff the vessel intends to arrive in a week or two from now and then notify dhs/uscg of the problem for further examination. AKA, if their exit-to documents can not be validated, uscg is responsible, if epa indicates they are going somewhere other than the prior american flagged location, epa is responsible for the situation and can request uscg/dhs and guam govt help. see the audio linked from or at the news site mentioned in post.

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