Toxic Trade News / 28 August 2009
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US Environmental Protection Agency to let Anders sail
by Rajesh Joshi, Lloyd's List
28 August 2009 (New York) – The US Environmental Protection Agency has said it would not stop the Anders, one of the two ships at the centre of the toxic ship-scrapping furore in the US, from sailing away to Brazil.

Terri White, spokesperson for the EPA’s Region 3 office in Philadelphia, told Lloyd’s List via email on Thursday: “We still maintain that considering all the information at hand, EPA believes that we do not have a good case to detain the ships, realising that the Anders has already left the US.

“We believe that the ships will continue to be used as cargo ships.”

The statement came as the newly renamed and reflagged Anders sailed from Norfolk on Wednesday, with Santos as the reported destination.

The Bonny, the other ship embroiled in the controversy, remains in Norfolk, as per Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit data.

The two ships, commercially owned by Wilmington Trust and chartered to the US Navy Military Sealift Command, were sold to an entity known as Star Maritime after their military charters expired. They were previously named PFC James Anderson and 1st Lt Alex Bonnyman, under US flag.

Ecological interests, spearheaded by the Basel Action Network, have expressed concern that the ships might end up in a scrap yard in India or Bangladesh, in an open even if legal circumvention of US policy against such scrapping and an anti toxic export statute.

The EPA sent a letter to Star on July 31, in which the agency admitted the possibility that the two ships might contain regulated quantities of PCBs based on their age and findings from “other vessels of similar vintage”.

However, the letter left the onus clearly on Star, in concluding that “if the vessels are determined to contain regulated quantities of PCBs, use or export for disposal, including dismantling, would be a violation of the US Toxic Substances Control Act.”

Ms White told Lloyd’s List: “The letter is to remind the owner of what the TSCA demands of them, so that the owner understands this obligation.”

Star has stressed that it would trade the two ships, not scrap them. The company earlier in the week suggested the ship would be pressed into trades related to sugar. Following a failure of this year’s sugar crop, India is reported to be in dire need of sugar imports.

These developments came as BAN made public details of its contact with the EPA, in which the agency’s Frank McAlister said presence of PCBs was “unlikely”.

BAN executive director Jim Puckett dismissed this assurance, and reiterated BAN’s belief that the Anders and Bonny were headed for scrapping in India or Bangladesh.

Mr Puckett said: “This is really shocking. All through the Bush Administration, the EPA took action every time we warned them of a pending TSCA violation, and their record of enforcement was strong.

“Now we elected an environmental president, and his administration for the first time in ten years is willing to ignore the law and dump toxic waste on developing countries.”

The furore surrounding the Anders and Bonny has trained the spotlight on the practice of reflagging US commercial ships that may have PCBs so they can be scrapped abroad, but within the confines of a tacit “don’t ask-don’t tell” approach.

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