Toxic Trade News / 10 March 2011
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BAN Media Release
  Prince William Sound

Photo by Phil Gilston as published in
10 March 2011 (India) – According to the U.S. Maritime Administration, a U.S. flagged tanker named “Prince William Sound,” owned in part by a BP subsidiary, has been given clearance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be sold, knowing it would be beached on the infamous scrapping beaches at Alang, India. Meanwhile EPA has refused after repeated requests to deliver to BAN any particulars as to why the clearance was given.

The ship was built in 1975 and likely contains toxic wastes including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, lead and TBT based paints. Sources indicate that 50-70 shipbreaking workers die each year at Alang from explosions, falling steel plates and exposure to toxic materials.[1] According to reliable industry sources, the beaching at Alang is expected to happen in a matter of hours should nobody intervene. Toxic exports of this kind violate the United Nations Basel Convention and should be considered illegal trafficking in toxic waste by Parties to the Convention. The U.S. has signed the Basel Convention but has not as yet ratified it.

“Our Federal government’s lack of action regarding international toxic waste dumping is a travesty,” said BAN’s Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director, Colby Self. “Their turning a blind eye to these U.S. ship dumping schemes makes a mockery of the Administration’s stated commitment to transparency, environmental justice and recycling.”

However it is possible that the export violates U.S. law. In October 2010, the U.S. Maritime Administration prompted the U.S. EPA to review and inspect the vessel to ensure PCBs were not present in any materials within the composition of the vessel in accordance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). However, the ship had already been allowed to leave for Malaysia. TSCA prohibits the distribution in commerce and the export for disposal of PCB contaminated material. After several months, the EPA declared that the vessel did not likely contain regulated concentrations of PCBs. This conclusion was reportedly based on information provided by the owner of the vessel and their representatives. BAN asked to see the review to determine whether the claims were legitimate but has been denied such access or answers to our questions about the case.

EPA’s own guidance documents suggest vessels of this vintage (pre-1979) are assumed to contain regulated concentrations of PCBs (equal to or greater than 50 parts per million) unless sampling of all suspected materials prove otherwise.[2]

“U.S. EPA has a responsibility to ensure that those in developing countries are protected from U.S. toxic wastes just as they would be at home,” said Colby Self. “For the EPA to stand by in utter silence while impoverished societies are dumped on is a disgrace.”

India is urged to turn the Prince William Sound away and to uphold the principles of the Basel Convention which prohibits the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes from a non-party, such as the U.S., to a member state, such as India. The U.S. EPA is asked to communicate with the government of India as a matter of urgency to return the ship to U.S. shores where it can undergo proper testing and remediation under EPA scrutiny.


For more information, contact:

Mr. Colby Self
Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director
Basel Action Network
+001 206 250 5652




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Select images courtesy of Chris Jordan