Toxic Trade News / 2 May 2008
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Global Marketing Systems responds to EPA investigation
by Kevin Spradlin, Cumberland Times-News
2 May 2008 (Cumberland, Md.) – There is "no proof" that Global Marketing Systems Inc. or Global Shipping LLC allowed a vessel with anything that violated the federal Toxic Substances Control Act to set sail.

Anil Sharma, owner of GMS, said Thursday his company responded within the required 30 days of being served with the March 18 complaint. The complaint was filed by Nancy Lindsay, acting director of Region XI, Waste Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We have been speaking almost daily with the EPA," Sharma said. "We have given all information the EPA wanted on this vessel. I don't know how it came out ... that rules were broken."

He said company lawyers would continue to work with EPA officials to "clear up mysteries and misinformation."

"The problem is when you start making inaccurate (statements) ... it hurts," Sharma said. "It paints a wrong picture of the facts."

The EPA accused GMS of sailing the MV Oceanic, formerly the Independence, to another country for recycling before being inspected for polychlorinated biphenyls. PCBs were used in coolants, insulating fluids and as stabilizing additives in flexible PVC coatings of electrical wiring and electrical components.

The U.S. banned the use of PCBs in 1978. The Oceanic was built in the early 1950s, primarily for passenger transport as an ocean liner and secondarily for troop transport.

Dean Higuchi, a spokesman for the EPA's Pacific Islands office, confirmed GMS responded to the complaint in a timely manner but declined to offer much in details.

"At this point we will just continue with our enforcement case," Higuchi said. "Unfortunately, I can't really speak more about the enforcement because it's ongoing."

While berthed at a San Francisco port, the EPA alleges GMS hired the tugboat Pacific Hickory to tow the Oceanic from California "to a location outside of the jurisdiction of the United States for demolition."

The complaint said GMS has been holding the ship since July 24, 2007, for disposal outside the U.S. and that "as of (March 18, GMS officials) have not removed the PCBs and PCB items from commerce."

The EPA said this act "constitutes distribution in commerce" and is against the law. The complaint further alleges that the company initiated export of the Oceanic for disposal in February. For the violations, the EPA proposed a civil penalty of up $32,500 per day for each violation.

But Sharma said the ship was not bound for demolition in either Bangladesh or India. It was headed for either Singapore or Dubai. There was a potential buyer for the ship from Greece, he said.

Sharma said the U.S. Maritime Administration was not required to be notified when the Oceanic left San Francisco. Still, the agency was notified, according to a letter last month to the Times-News from Mary Beth Duncan of GMS.

"It appears to us that the EPA has made claims and statements to the media without investigating the facts with us," Duncan wrote.

Sharma said he has an idea where those accusations originated. The Basel Action Network "works to prevent the globalization of the toxic chemical crisis," according to its Web site.

The organization has "made some really baseless and wrong allegations on the ships," Sharma said. "Our lawyers had to send them a cease and desist order. I have seen no documents that this ship contains (PCBs)."

Other groups also have an interest in such issues, Sharma said.

"Some groups want to save the vessel from being recycled or being exported out of the U.S.," Sharma said. "What are the agendas of these groups?"

Yet another complaint, Sharma said, was from a representative of an American-based ship recycling company.

"They obviously have interests in ships to be recycled in the U.S. rather than overseas," Sharma said.

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