8 June 2011 – After being banned in Bangladesh , a toxic-laden ship, Probo Koala, is headed towards Indian shores for dismantling , a global group of activists called ‘NGO Shipbreaking Platform’ has warned. The ship, a 1989-built oil carrier cargo vessel weighing 31,255 tonnes now named Gulf Jash, was banned from entering Bangladesh waters recently after environmentalists in neighbouring countries warned the government about it.
The ship has been in the thick of controversy in Africa and Europe. Its previous owner, a company called Trafigura, tried to offload on-board toxic material in Amsterdam. When authorities imposed heavy charges for disposal, the company decided to send the ship to Africa.
After trying its luck in Nigeria, the company finally found a dealer in Ivory Coast to dump the chemicals off board. Hundreds of tonnes of toxic chemicals were poured into the country’s largest city, Abidjan. The toxic dumps left 16 people dead and thousands severely ill.
India is fast acquiring a global reputation as a country to head for if you are looking to get ships with toxic remains scrapped. This is a reputation we can do without. The last thing we want is to become the global dumping ground for toxic waste. The business of ship breaking might be lucrative, but it is not worth endangering lives and the environment.
If we have ambitions of being treated as an emerging global power, we must stop behaving like an underdeveloped country where anything goes and life is cheap. Not only do we need strong laws governing this sector, we must also have strict enforcement of those laws to show that we aren’t just being politically correct in putting them on the statute books.
Toxic ship may contain tonnes of hazardous asbestos
Trafigura, the company that owns the a toxic-laden ship headed for Indian shores, has a dubious record . After it dumped chemicals in Ivory Coast which killed 16 people, the company had to reportedly settle cases out of court by paying out £30 million to the victims and nearly £100 million to the Ivory Coast government for clean up though the company never officially accepted blame.
The ship, environmentalists warn contains many tonnes of hazardous asbestos , PCBs, toxic paints, fuel and chemical residues which have not been cleaned up before sending the ship for dismantling. Activists have been demanding for years that ships owned by companies in the developed world should be rid of all toxic material before being sent to shipyards in poorer countries . But the global shipping companies, vary of the costs involved, have preferred not to do so on several occasions.
While the Basel Convention , an international treaty, prevents rich countries from transporting hazardous waste and chemicals to developing countries without prior information, the shipping firms and those in the market for dismantling old ships get around the treaty quite easily.
The ships are registered in developing countries under shell companies carrying what are called ‘flags of convenience’ which permit them to bypass the treaty.
The Probo Koala is registered in Panama. The last confirmed owner of the ship was a group called GMS, which has faced charges of trying to smuggle out another dirty ship in the US. The ship, Oceanic, finally reached India for breaking. GMS also made an out-ofcourt settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and paid more than half a million dollars. India has also faced two high profile cases – those of Clemenceau and Blue Lady – though the shipyards at Alang continue to break hundreds of ships even after that