USEPA called on to Stop Illegal Departure of Toxic Ocean Liner in Hawaii

Historic SS Independence loaded with PCBs and asbestos to be scrapped

On February 22, 2008, a 682 foot ocean liner known as the SS Independence loaded with an estimated 210 tons of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 250 tons of deadly asbestos as part of its construction, will be towed into Hawaiian waters so that the ocean going tug Pacific Hickory, hauling it can refuel on its way to Asia.[1] The ship has become the latest test case in the international furor against the environmental and human rights abuses caused by shipbreaking practices and the rapid disappearance of our last classic ocean liners. SS Independence has been renamed a SS Oceanic.

According to the Basel Action Network (BAN) and Save the Classic
Liners Campaign, the export of the 1950 classic ship, recently owned
by Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), a subsidiary of Star Cruise Ltd and
mothballed in San Francisco Bay, is illegal. Its quiet departure from
San Francisco Bay for the stated destination of Singapore on 8
February should never have been allowed, because the US flagged ship
should have been declared as historically significant by the Maritime
Administration when it sold the vessel to NCL in 2003 and because the
export of the PCB laden ship is illegal under the Toxic Substances
Control Act (TSCA). The groups claim that if the ship is not
apprehended and held by US authorities in Hawaii it will evade the law
and will end up being scrapped on the infamous shipbreaking beaches of
India, Pakistan or Bangladesh where workers are subjected to deadly
occupational disease, explosions and crushing accidents and the
beaches are befouled with toxic PCBs and oils. EPA's Region 9
headquarters in San Francisco is currently seeing if they can obtain a
temporary restraining order to hold the ship pending sampling and
analysis for PCBs. According to BAN, there is no excuse for EPA not
to do so.

"This ship is a toxic timebomb for the poor laborers of South Asia,"
said Jim Puckett, coordinator of the Basel Action Network. "If EPA and
the Coast Guard do not act to detain this vessel and her tug as it
passes one last time through US waters, the liability and shame will
rest on our own government for failing to enforce our law."

In November of last year, BAN tipped off the EPA in Baltimore and was
able to halt the export of the M/V Sanctuary from the Port of Maryland
pending testing and remediation of toxic PCBs.[2] Prior to that , BAN
similarly tipped off San Francisco EPA to the imminent export of the
USS Crescent City (aka Artship) from Oakland for scrapping in Asia.[3]
In the present case, BAN has contracted with a maritime survey and
remediation expert to provide an estimate of the amount of PCBs,
asbestos and other hazardous substances on board.[1] According to
BAN, with this information in hand the government is now obliged to
act to prevent the illegal export.

According to the activist groups, the present case is not the first
time a ship that belonged to Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), flaunted
international waste trade rules. In 2005 NCL told the German
government that they were going to have the former SS Norway (aka Blue
Lady), cruise liner exported to Malaysia to be refurbished. Germany
was unable to halt the export as hazardous waste due to the claim of
continued use of the vessel. Had its export been reported as export
for scrapping, then the export would have been prohibited under the
European Union laws that implement the Basel Convention. However,
after the ship arrived in Malaysia, no repair work was done and NCL
instead later attempted to send it to Bangladesh for scrapping on the
beaches.[4] The Bangladesh government refused to accept it due to the
large quantities of asbestos onboard. Subsequently it was run onto
the beaches of Alang, India. Today, much to the dismay of
environmentalists and preservationists alike, the Blue Lady sits in
the sand, and has been stripped of its historical interiors, awaiting
Indian Supreme Court determinations as to whether it will be cut and

Meanwhile, preservation organizations say the rush to scrap vessels
due to the recent high prices of metals is causing the rapid
"extinction" of our last remaining classic liners. They are calling
on the federal government to exercise the National Historic
Preservation Act to save the the SS Independence, one of the last two
such remaining vessels [5] before its too late.

"This ship is a priceless historic monument that deserves to be
preserved as a museum or hotel for the enjoyment and awe of
generations to come," said Erik James of Save the Classic Liners
Campaign. "That should be her future, not one of death and
destruction on the beaches of India."

For more information contact:

Eric James, Save the Classic Liners Campaign: 1.617.755.8570 (cell),
Corey Abelove, Save the Classic Liners Campaign: 1.770.853.1413,

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network: 1.206.652.5555 (office),
1.206.354.0359 (cell),

Max Weintraub, EPA technical expert, Region 9:

Allan Zabel, Legal Council, Region 9: 1.415.972.3902 (office),

Lt. Paul Markland, Coast Guard Hawaii, 1.808.541.2105 (office)

conducted by ship remediation expert Mr. Werner F. Hoyt. Mr. Werner
Hoyt can be contacted at: 1.530.938.1253 (office), 1.650.291.5204




[5] Only the SS Independence and the SS United States remains. The SS
United States also owned by NCL is currently berthed in Philadelphia.

Activists Fight To Stop 'Oceanic' Scrapping
Historic Ship One Of 2 American-Built Cruise Liners

POSTED: 6:36 pm HST February 20, 2008

HONOLULU -- A bit of drama played out on the high seas near Hawaii, involving a famous ship that sailed island waters for 20 years.

The SS Independence -- now called the Oceanic -- is being towed to Asia to be scrapped. But some activists are trying to save the ship if it stops here on its final journey.

The old SS Independence sailed interisland cruises for 20 years. In recent years, however, it has been mothballed near San Francisco. Now the ship is being towed across the Pacific to be scraped at a ship-breaking beach in India or Bangladesh.

A group called Save the Classic Liners wants the Coast Guard and EPA to impound the ship when the tugboat towing it stops to refuel in Hawaii, claiming breaking it down in Asia would release toxic PCBs and asbestos. They also said it is one of only two historic America flagged cruise ships.

The ship's owner said the tug will not stop in Hawaii and is headed to Guam.

Those who want to save the ship said it could be turned into a floating museum, like Falls of Clyde, or hotel or convention center.

Unless the EPA and Coast Guard stop it in Hawaiian waters, it will most likely be scrapped in Asia.



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