The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday gave a green signal to Exxon Valdez, the massive crude oil tanker that caused one of the worst-ever oil spills in Alaska in 1989, to be dismantled in Alang.
A two-judge bench headed by Altamas Kabir said the Oriental Nicety, formerly known as Exxon Valdez, can be anchored and dismantled at the Alang ship-breaking yard. The 213,000-tonne tanker was set to come to Alang on May 9.
However, GPCB refused permission till SC decided on the petition filed by Delhi-based activist Gopal Krishna, asking the court to stop the vessel from coming to India on the grounds that it contains "toxic" waste.
"It's disappointing that the toxic-laden vessel has given entry into Indian waters," Krishna said. "The ship poses an environmental threat because it had asbestos and heavy metals aboard," he added.
Exxon Valdez, which was ultimately converted into an ore-carrying vessel after the Alaska accident, was purchased by Alang-based Blue Oasis, a subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries led by Sanjay Mehta. The 300-metre-long vessel is said to have been purchased from China-based COSCO Shanghai Ship Management company for around $16 million.
GPCB officials said they haven't received the court order and can't comment at this stage. The ship is currently anchored around six nautical miles off Alang with its 16-member Indian crew. "The agencies operating in Alang in their affidavits have said there is no hazardous waste in loose form on the ship. The court has said that if waste is found during dismantling of the ship, then proper process should be followed for its disposal and cost be borne by the ship owner," Krishna said.
Exxon Valdez has also been renamed several times. It was recommissioned as Exxon Mediterranean and changed many names after that. It was built by San Diego, California-based National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in 1985.
No vessel to be dismantled in future
The order allowing Exxon Valdez could well be called a blessing in disguise for environmentalists. Petitioner Gopal Krishna said, "The apex court has ruled that in future no vessel should be dismantled in the country in contravention of the Basel Convention."
The convention, an international treaty on cross-boundary movement of hazardous wastes, that among others, insists on prior consent by the host country and prior decontamination of vessels in the country of origin. GPCB officials said if it becomes mandatory to follow Basel Convention, then for few months no new ship could be anchored at Alang as it would require a new policy to get ship-breakers adhere to the guidelines.
Date: August 1, 2012 Read More