'Toxic' ship barred

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  • Published 9.11.09
The Platinum II

New Delhi/Ahmedabad, Nov. 9: The Union environment ministry today denied permission for US ship Platinum II to be broken, citing violations of US laws and other irregularities.

The 58-year-old former luxury ocean liner, headed for Gujarat’s Alang ship breaking yard, has been anchored off the coast for over a month amid protests by environmental activists who claim it was illegally transferring hazardous waste into India.

In a note to the Gujarat Maritime Board, the environment ministry said it had learnt the ship had violated the United States Toxic Substances Act and that the US Environment Protection Agency had passed an order against its owners.

The ministry also asked the board to probe allegations that the ship was brought into India with a falsified flag and registry. Given these concerns, it is not advisable to allow the ship to be beached or broken, the ministry note said.

Green activists claim the ship contains potentially toxic materials that may endanger the health of labourers tasked with ship breaking. But a panel of five experts, asked by the environment ministry to examine the ship, had concluded that the materials on board did not pose a serious threat.

The ship’s arrival in India had triggered controversy in the US. The Basel Action Network, an NGO that monitors ship breaking, had said the US government had made a “terrible mistake” by allowing the ship to sail away from the country.

Platinum II is now likely to be sent back. It may meet the fate of Le Clemenceau, the French ship that was sent back after the Supreme Court blocked its entry into Indian waters in 2007, ruling out permission for it to be dismantled at Alang.

The environment ministry decision is a slap in the face of the Gujarat government, which had given a clean chit to the ship.