US Government Accused of Failing to Enforce Toxic Export Ban
SEATTLE – October 23 – The worst fears of environmentalists and human rights acitvists have been confirmed as it has been discovered this month that an aging American ocean liner, the SS Oceanic (formerly SS Independence), one believed to contain significant quantities of asbestos and toxic PCB chemicals in its structure, has now arrived at the infamous Alang, Gujarat, India shipbreaking yards  with a new name – Platinum II. The ship will be scrapped in contravention of US and international law unless government action on the part of US or Indian authorities is taken as a matter of urgency.
The Oceanic made headlines in 2008 when its former owners, Global Shipping LLC (GSL) and Global Marketing Systems Inc. (GMS) (both of Maryland and part of the Mr. Anil Sharma family’s shipbreaking, cashbuying and brokerage interests), were charged by the US government with illegal export of PCBs for disposal and use in commerce under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA acted after the Basel Action Network (BAN) warned that the ship was likely to be carrying PCBs and was known to be headed for the scrapping beaches of South Asia. To avoid a court case to contest this charge, the former owners paid over one half million dollars as a settlement. After EPA pressed charges, the owners denied that the ship was going to be sent for breaking on the beaches of South Asia as the EPA and environmental groups feared and instead claimed it was to be reused as a ship by its new owners.
“US law exists to protect other countries from the scourge of toxic PCBs, and yet we continually fail to diligently enforce these laws,” said Mr. Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN, a member organization of the global NGO Platform on Shipbreaking. “It is clear now that the government made a terrible mistake in letting this ship sail away. It is now incumbent on the administration to do everything in its power to require India to repatriate the ship for proper toxic waste management as the law requires.”
Meanwhile, BAN has learned that the Maritime Administration (MARAD) aided and abetted the escape of the ship to a foreign jurisdiction by approving the sale of the vessel to a foreign buyer while the EPA was taking legal action against the owners. MARAD sent a letter to GSL in June 2008 offering support for the foreign transfer of the ship to Platinum Investment Services Corp. based in Monrovia, Liberia. Platinum Investment Services appears to be a “mailbox company:” under Liberian law, a company may register without publicly revealing an address, any principle owners, board members or spokespersons of any kind. The company has no office, no website and has no known history of ship operations. It is likely that MARAD’s authorization of the sale of the ship hampered the EPA’s own legal efforts to demand the ship be returned for proper testing and remediation.
In India, the ship’s arrival violates the Basel Convention to which India is a Party. Under that United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) treaty, India is not allowed to receive hazardous waste from the United States. Nor can it receive hazardous waste from any foreign source without prior notification of arrival and consent from the Indian government. No such notification or consent was provided in advance of the sudden arrival of the toxic ship. Further, the ship’s arrival violated the Supreme Court of India’s order of 14th October 2003 and 6th September 2007, which calls for the pre-cleaning of ships of all toxic substances prior to importation.
The incident is reminiscent of the infamous export of the French Aircraft Carrier Le Clemenceau, which in 2006 was exported to India for breaking from France. French courts finally realized the export was a violation of the Basel Convention and demanded the return of the ship.
“The Oceanic’s arrival off the Gujarat beaches makes India an international crime scene, with the Maritime Administration abetting such crimes,” said Mr. Puckett. “The last time something like this happened, the authorities of the exporting country called the ship back and took responsibility. We are calling on the authorities of India and the US to do nothing less.”
The Platinum II now rests at anchorage off Gopnath point approximately 40 nautical miles from the Alang coast while Indian state authorities decide her fate. GMS denies any ownership of the vessel or of the mystery firm Platinum Investment Services Corp. However, the vessel is slated for breaking at the Leela Ship Recycling plot in Alang, which is owned by Komal Sharma, brother to Anil Sharma, owner of GMS.
For more information contact:
Mr. Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, 206.652-5555, [email protected]
 Ship-breaking on Alang Beach is well known for its occupational hazards as workers in the scrapping operations are exposed daily to deadly hazards such as asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, and residual fuels. Death by fire, steel crushing, and cancer are all too common. The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) acknowledges 372 reported deaths from 1983 to 2004 at Alang, however Greenpeace and the International Federation of Human Rights suggest actual death rates are more than twice that at 50-60 deaths per year. See: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article19169 and http://www.indianexpress.com/news/fatal-accidents-continue-to-haunt-alang-shipbreaking-yard/476111/0
 In February 2008, the SS Oceanic quietly departed from San Francisco Bay under tow and in breach of the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In January 2009, nearly one full year after its illegal departure, the EPA settled with owners, Global Shipping LLC (GSL) and Global Marketing Systems, Inc. (GMS), for illegal export of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which exist within the construction of the vessel. GMS and GSL were ordered to pay $518,500 in U.S. court as part of the settlement.
 See copy of settlement: http://www.ban.org/Library/Global_CAFO.pdf