PCBs laden MV Oceanic in Indian waters

US Ship Broker, Chinese company & gullible Indian authorities allow Illegal Export of 'Toxic Time bomb’

Connivance facilitates entry of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) laden MV Oceanic in Indian waters

New Delhi April 26, 2008–A ship named MV Oceanic (SS Independence) against which the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has filed suit has beached itself in Alang according to sources from the shipbreaking yard. A well-known "cashbuyer" who is a US citizen of Indian origin routinely buys ships from all over the world and sends them to the notorious breaking beaches of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Indian Supreme Court’s order of September 6 and September 11, 2007 has created more loopholes than were pre-existing, thus opening floodgates for dubious ships to enter Indian waters endangering both environmental and national security.

It is appalling to note that quite unlike US EPA Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Gujarat Maritime Board in a manifest case of dereliction of duty have chosen not take of this "toxic time bomb" for the labourers, communities and environment of Alang.USEPA filed suit because the export of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) is illegal. It is illegal in India too. Under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) too it is a prohibited toxic chemical. While USEPA filed a suit against the ship, it is alarming that it facilitated the export of this hazardous ship by not stopping the movement of the vessel that left the San Francisco Bay on February 8th, 2008 passed through Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.

The last owner of the classic 1950 liner was Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) owned in turn by Chinese Company Star Cruises. NCL already has a reputation for negligence and evasion of international and national environmental and safety laws. It is noteworthy that NCL is the real owner of both SS Blue Lady (SS Norway, SS France) and SS Oceanic. The same person, Colin Veitch, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, subsidiary of Star Cruise Ltd, owned both the ships. He has floated proxy companies & buyers to escape decontamination cost. His company has been indicted of environmental crime by the US court in the past. US Transportation Department is also seized with the matter and is of the opinion that the ship might have violated anti-trust law.

Now an NCL shell company California Manufacturing Corporation sold the ship in July of last year to Global Marketing Services (GMS) founded by Anil Sharma. Sharma's website brags of buying and facilitating more than 100 ships per year being exported to Asia for scrapping. SS Oceanic is known to have beached itself in the plot of one Komal Sharma, brother of Anil Sharma and owner of Leela Ship Recycling Yard.

Both US authorities and the Chinese company are complicit in this illegal traffic even as the gullible Indian officials are working hard to mislead the Supreme Court that is seized with the ship breaking issue.

The shipbreaking operations in endanger workers and the immediate environment by failing to manage asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, and residual fuels.

"The government is letting the shipowners get away with what could be tantamount to murder," said Gopal Krishna of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) and coordinator of Indian Platform on Shipbreaking. One fails to understand as to why on earth is the government not demanding that the ship be turned away from the Indian at once since it has failed to comply with the Supreme Court orders.

"We've seen this time and time again," said Jim Puckett, coordinator of BAN. "The US Maritime Administration turns a blind eye or even assists in the reflagging and export of toxic vessels even thought they know very well that these exports may very likely be illegal under US law, or international law. And now EPA merely fulfilled some formalities and turned a blind eye to the ongoing dumping of poisonous ships in India. Its a shameful lose lose lose scenario," he said.

Export of PCB materials from the United States is a violation of EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act. Vessels such as the MV Oceanic, which was built in the early 1950s, were commonly constructed with PCB-containing materials including cables, electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers, watertight seal material, and painted surfaces. United States has banned the production of this chemical class in 1978. PCBs were commonly used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and rubber products. Both Stockholm Convention and US EPA banned this class of chemicals after tests showed that PCBs cause cancer in animals and adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems in humans. [1]

US is not a signatory of Basel Convention on Trans-boundary of Hazardous Wastes. It encourages illegal traffic in hazardous wastes as it gets its toxic waste managed in this very manner amid empty talk of its rule of law.

India is a party to the Stockholm Convention but the government has not filed an injunction against the ongoing toxic export. Instead the ship is all set to be broken by some of the poorest and most vulnerable workers in the world, operating under some of the most dangerous conditions. PCBs were used as coolants and insulating fluids for transformers and capacitors, stabilizing additives in flexible PVC coatings of electrical wiring and electronic components, cutting oils, flame retardants, hydraulic fluids, adhesives, wood floor finishes. Paints and de-dusting agents among other things. PCBs are classified as persistent organic pollutants which bioaccumulate in animals.

The ship, MV Oceanic is loaded with an estimated 210 tons of toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated material and an estimated 250 tons of asbestos as part of its construction. [2] It is glaringly clear even from the Supreme Court’s order that India does not know how to deal with PCBs.

For more information contact: Gopal Krishna, Indian Platform on Shipbreaking, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishnagreen@gmail.com, Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network (Seattle): 1.206.652.5555 (office), 1.206.354.0391 (cell), jpuckett@ban.org, Alejandro G. Argerich, United States Department of Transportation
Office of the Secretary of Transportation, Chief Information Officer, Voice (202) 366-1717
Fax (202) 366-7936 E-mail-alejandro.argerich@dot.gov

[1] Health effects- The toxicity of PCBs to animals was first noticed in the 1970s when emaciated seabird corpses with very high PCB body burdens were washed up on beaches. The sources of the PCBs were unknown though, because seabirds may die at sea and be washed ashore from a very wide area. Where they were found was no reliable indicator of where they had died. The most commonly observed health effects in people exposed to PCBs are skin conditions such as chloracne and rashes, but these were known to be symptoms of systemic poisoning dating back to the 1920s. Studies in workers exposed to PCBs have shown changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage. In 1968 in Japan, PCB contamination in rice bran oil caused a mass poisoning known as Yushō Disease in over 14000 people. Common symptoms included dermal and ocular lesions, irregular menstrual cycles and a lowered immune response. Other symptoms included fatigue, headache, cough, and unusual skin sores. Additionally, in children, there were reports of poor cognitive development. There have also been studies of the health effects of PCBs in the general population and in children of mothers who were exposed to PCBs. A few studies of workers indicate that PCBs were associated with specific kinds of cancer in humans, such as cancer of the liver and biliary tract. Rats that ate food containing high levels of PCBs for two years developed liver cancer. PCBs exhibit a wide range of toxic effects. These effects may vary depending on the specific PCB and are similar to dioxins.

Large quantities of PCBs have been placed in landfill sites, mainly in the form of transformers and capacitors. Many municipal sites are not designed to contain these pollutants and PCBs are able to escape into the atmosphere or ground water.

[2] http://www.ban.org/Library/SS_Independence_Waste_Stream_Estimate.pdf,
conducted by ship remediation expert Mr. Werner F. Hoyt. Mr. Werner Hoyt
can be contacted at: 1.530.938.1253 (off.), 1.650.291.5204 (cell),WernerHoyt@aol.com



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