Greenpeace activists protest in front of two UK ships bound for shipbreaking in India. The export of ships containing toxic chemicals to other countries is illegal under the Basel Convention.
Greenpeace's campaign ship Rainbow Warrior has found a UK
vessel, Genova Bridge, beached for scrapping at Alang, the world's
largest ship scrapping yard in India. The export of the vessel
constitutes an illegal shipment of hazardous waste, contravening
national law in India and the Basel Convention -- an international
agreement governing transboundary movements of hazardous waste.
The exposure of this clear example of double standards further
complicates the "almighty muddle" of the ghost fleet issue, as one
parliamentarian termed it, and the far larger issue of shipbreaking
in general. If it's not OK for US waste to go to the UK, why should
it be OK for UK waste to go to India?
Our answer is simple: it's about as far from OK as you can get.
The British owner and the British authorities have to ensure that
the toxic materials onboard of this ship will be removed safely and
taken back to England for final disposal.
All ships containing toxic waste should be cleaned at their site
of origin, providing adequate health and safety technologies are
available locally, before being sent anywhere for shipbreaking, and
particularly before being sent to developing countries.
"This is a classic case of double standards. While the UK
authorities don't want US waste in their backyard, they are happy
to illegally dump their own elsewhere - failing to ensure safe
removal of toxic substances and safe conditions for the workers in
the developing world. We demand that the UK government apply the
same international rules to their illegal export of toxic ships to
India, as they apply to the illegal import of the ghost fleet to
the UK." said Ramapati Kumar, Shipbreaking campaigner onboard
Rainbow Warrior at Alang.
Who you gonna call?
The international community has recognised that the
environmental pollution from shipbreaking is a serious concern but
fails to address the issue adequately. Under the Basel Convention,
end-of-life ships are considered waste, meaning that their export
is strictly regulated. The International Maritime Association,
(IMO) the UN Agency dedicated to "cleaner seas" and "safer
shipping" does not accept the notion that end-of-life ships are
IMO is largely beholden to the shipping and oil industries. Dues at
the IMO are assessed by fleet tonnage, which means
flag-of-convenience states such as Panama, Liberia, Cyprus, and the
Bahamas are among the top contributors. Representatives of these
nations regularly place the interests of the shipping and oil
industries before health and safety issues, and their membership
dues are reportedly sometimes paid by the industries
The IMO is not only failing to protect the environment and poor
workers in shipbreaking yards, but it is also trying to
expel Greenpeace from the organisation for alleged safety
violations: a rich accusation coming from an organisation that has
taken no action to expel those responsible for the Prestige and
Exxon Valdez oil spills.
"The inability of the IMO to address this issue conclusively is
no longer acceptable. When the IMO's General Assembly meets later
this month, it needs to conclude that the illegal export of toxic
end-of-life-ships will be stopped. Any other conclusion will show
the inability of the IMO to deal with current marine and
environmental issues. It should also reverse its decision to expel
Greenpeace, failure to do so will be a clear demonstration that the
organisation is more interested in listening to the vested
interests of the shipping industry rather than the voice which is
trying to ensure the protection of the environment and human
lives." said Paul Horsman of Greenpeace International.
The Rainbow Warrior is in India on a Corporate Accountability
tour, in a bid to expose corporations that are committing crimes
against nature and humanity. The first phase of the tour is focused
on the on Ship-breaking at Alang, Gujarat.
We have selected 50 ships which might be scrapped soon. We have
asked the owners of these ships to declare that their ships will be
decontaminated before scrapping in Asian countries. Until that time
we will follow and monitor these (and other) ships.
We need YOUR help to spot
these ships and identify other ships that are in danger of
sailing towards the beaches of Asia without being
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