INDIAN GOVERNMENT BLOCKS TOXIC US SHIP
Forged Ship Registration Documents Confirmed as Environmentalists Claim Victory
BAN Media Release
9 November 2009 (Seattle, WA) – Following the discovery by the Basel Action Network (BAN) that the national registry and flag had been falsified, the Indian government yesterday ruled against allowing an aged American cruise liner from being beached on the infamous shipbreaking beaches of Alang, India. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) cited the precautionary principle and the fact that the ship not only appeared to arrive in India with false documentation but also the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took legal action against Global Marketing Services (GMS) and sister company Global Shipping LLC (GSL), both companies set up by the famous shipbreaking cashbuyer Mr. Anil Sharma, for exporting the ship from San Francisco, California in 2008 in violation of the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The Platinum II formerly known as the SS Oceanic (and originally, the SS Independence) arrived in Indian waters for scrapping on 8 October 2009 with papers saying its flag was that of the Republic of Kiribati and that it was owned by Platinum Investment Services of Monrovia, Liberia. But BAN received official confirmation from the Operations Manager at Kiribati Ship Registry, Liau Siew Leng, that the registration was a forgery. The Kiribati Ministry of Communications, Transport & Tourism Development Office further confirmed the falsified documents.
“Today's order by the Ministry of Environment & Forests advising against beaching is a victory in the fight against toxic trafficking and dumping on third world countries,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network, a member organization of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking. “Until now, India has been reluctant to expose the horrors of its shipbreaking industry. Hopefully they are beginning to realize that this industry is not worth the legacy of toxic waste, occupational disease and death, and illegality it leaves in its wake.”
The fraudulent ship registry is likely a violation of maritime law of the United States, India and Kiribati. The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) allowed the vessel to be sold to a non-citizen in April 2008 under the blanket approval in 46 C.F.R. 221.13. This general approval however did not grant approval for the sale of the vessel for scrapping in a foreign country. The vessel remains under the US flag and cannot be scrapped without MARAD’s approval. It is suspected that avoidance of US government scrutiny and denial of reflag permission for the purposes of scrapping is the rationale for the falsified re-registration. Further, the MOEF publicly released a report of the Central Technical Team on 5 November 2009 (internal release 26 October 2009) in which authorities confirmed the presence on board the ship of asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) as part of the vessel’s construction.
This finding confirms what environmental groups and the EPA have alleged since February 2008. GMS and GSL paid a settlement to the EPA of almost a half million dollars early this year without admitting a violation of the law. Exporting PCB material from the US is a violation of the Toxics Substances Control Act. After BAN blew the whistle on the ship export in 2008, GMS and GSL denied that the ship was being exported for scrap and said instead that it was being sold to an entity interested in reusing the ship. The ship sat for many months anchored off Dubai before suddenly appearing in Indian waters in October of this year under tow.
The relationship between GMS’s Mr. Sharma and the new owners is not clear. However, Mr. Dimitrios Koukas, President/Director of Platinum Investment Services, is also Managing Director of Optima Shipbrokers Ltd., and is listed as a business “reference” on GMS’ website. In Alang, India, it was known that Platinum Investment Services was selling the vessel to Leela Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd upon its arrival in India for $4,851,000 for breaking. Leela is owned by Komal Sharma, Anil Sharma’s brother.
“This blatant attempt to skirt US law must not go unchallenged,” said Jim Puckett. “It’s time for the United States to stand strong against these corporate shams and in support of global environmental justice.”
For more information contact:
Mr. Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, 206.652-5555, firstname.lastname@example.org
 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.
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