Toxic hulk turned away from Alang

Indian officials have forbidden a ghost ship reported to contain over 900 tonnes of toxic waste from docking at the infamous Alang shipbreaking yards in Gujarat.

The Blue Lady, formerly the SS Norway, is a decommissioned cruise liner containing huge amounts of asbestos as well as other toxics such as the persistent carcinogenics polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

On Friday, May 12, India’s Supreme Court accepted a petition from Greenpeace calling for the ship to be turned away, as the Alang yards did not have the appropriate facilities to remove the toxic materials without putting workers and the environment at risk.

The court accepted the NGO’s plea and on Monday, May 15 the Gujarat Pollution Control Board issued an order refusing the ship entry to the port.

The breaking of redundant ships is a prickly issue, as the recycling of the steel and other key components is arguably the most sustainable way to dispose of the unwanted hulks.

Those in favour of dismantling the ships in developing countries such as India, Bangladesh and China also argue the workers often value the employment and the income the ships bring with them.

But NGOs and other campaigners have highlighted the lack of health and safety procedures, huge number of often-fatal industrial accidents and lack of environmental protection.

They also argue that exporting the ships is in breach of international law such as the Basel Convention which forbids sending toxic waste to other countries and states it is the responsibility of the producer state.

India’s refusal to allow the Blue Lady to enter the scrapper hub of Alang will be celebrated as a second victory by Greenpeace, which was also central to the campaign to have the French aircraft carrier the Clemenceau turned away (see related story).

Sam Bond

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