2 June 2011- A cargo ship suspected of having toxic material on board was headed to an Indian shipyard to be dismantled after being rejected in two other countries, environment activists warned Thursday.
The “Gulf Jash” is in the Indian Ocean on its way to the western state of Gujarat after Vietnam and Bangladesh turned it away, said Gopal Krishna of the group Toxic Watch Alliance.
The ship is laden with asbestos, toxic PCBs, fuel and chemical residues, according to Krishna, who said he has been tracking it since 2006, when its owner first started trying to find a place to dismantle it despite the hazardous materials onboard.
Indian authorities have said they are awaiting a report from the Gujarat government before making a decision on whether to allow it to enter Indian waters.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said Wednesday that he had asked the Gujarat government for a “factual report” on the position of the ship.
The ship’s owner, U.S.-based Global Marketing System, could not immediately be reached for comment. India has one of the world’s largest industries for breaking down old ships and oil tankers, but like most countries it does not accept ships with toxic materials.
However, lax enforcement of laws mean ships with toxic materials are accepted for dismantling by unscrupulous contractors and tens of thousands of laborers, working with bare hands or minimal protection are exposed to deadly hazardous substances.
International and local environmental groups have for years urged Indian authorities to enforce laws to regulate the industry, in which ships are dismantled largely by hand.
Ritwick Dutta, a lawyer with NGO Shipbreaking Platform, an environment group that tracks toxic ships, says in India ships are dismantled close to the shore, without using cranes or heavy machinery.
“The ships are broken down by hand, their structures cut open” with blowtorches, he said.
In 2009, India banned the dismantling of an US-flagged cruise liner Platinum II at the ship-breaking yard in Alang in Gujurat after technical experts examined the ship and found evidence of asbestos and some radioactive substances in the hull.