CBC – Marine Atlantic ferry disposal outrages MP

1 November 2011 – Canadian vessels now at notorious Indian ship-breaking yard

A federal politician is angry that two former Marine Atlantic ferries are being dismantled at a notorious ship-breaking facility in India — even though the vessels were sold on the condition they would be scrapped in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

The Joseph and Clara Smallwood and The Caribou ferries sailed between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia for more than 20 years. Both boats are now in Alang, India, at one of most infamous ship-breaking facilities in the world.

Groups that monitor ship-breaking say deaths and other horrific workplace accidents are common in Alang. They also said environmental protection is not a consideration there.

The federal NDP’s environment critic said it’s an outrage.

“We shouldn’t be sending our problems overseas. It’s morally and ethically reprehensible,” said Halifax MP Megan Leslie.

Marine Atlantic sold the ferries to two separate companies, which then sold them to a company in India.

That company beached them in Alang in late October.

When Marine Atlantic sold the vessels, it tried to prevent this from happening — but it happened anyway.

Marine Atlantic told CBC News that a condition of sale included a commitment that if a buyer decide to recycle the vessels, it would be done at a yard with green recycling facilities.

Breach of sale terms

Leslie said what has happened is unacceptable.

“It is clearly a breach of that term of sale. I mean we’re talking about kids in India breaking down that vessel with absolutely no regard to the environmental impact on the surrounding area. It’s on a beach for crying out loud.”

According the United Nations Human Rights Council, 209 workers were killed in accidents in Alang between 1996 and 2003.

A ship-breakers watchdog group in New Delhi, India, told CBC News Tuesday that at least 27 workers have been killed this year in Alang.

Gopal Krishna, who works with the group Toxics Watch Alliance, said the risks to workers have grown at Indian ship-breaking facilities since the UN’s last visit, and that “there is no rule of law in Alang.”

Back in Ottawa, the federal minister of transportation wouldn’t comment on the issue.

“I think you should talk to Marine Atlantic, that’s an operational issue,” Federal Transportation Minister Steven Fletcher told CBC News.

According to Toxics Watch Alliance, workers have already started dismantling the ferries.