Public Demand Letter to Norwegian Cruise Lines and Star Cruises Ltd.
NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, July 21, 2006
Mr. Colin Veitch
President and CEO
Norwegian Cruise Lines
7665 Corporate Drive Center
Miami, Florida 33126
RE: Urgent Request Regarding SS Norway
Dear Mr. Veitch:
The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking is a global coalition of human rights, environmental, public health, and labor organizations. On behalf of the NGO Platform, we are writing to you in regard to the urgent matter of irresponsible and potentially devastating scrapping of the SS Norway (SS Blue Lady, ex-France) in India, a vessel recently belonging to the Norwegian Cruise Lines (a subsidiary of Star Cruises Ltd) fleet of cruise ships.
We have tried in vain to reach your offices in Florida by phone and by letter in the past weeks and our requests for a conversation with you have not been returned. It is for that reason that we send this communication by registered mail and at the same time will be sending this same letter to the press in one day's time after receipt. Should you wish to contact us in the interim please do so by phoning Richard Gutierrez at (206) 652-5751 in Seattle.
As the long-standing owner of the SS Norway, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and its mother company Star Cruises Ltd (SCL) are the beneficial owners that enjoyed much of the bounty that the vessel brought during its useful life. We therefore assert that SCL and NCL have the moral responsibility if not the legal responsibility for ensuring that said vessel does not damage the environment and human health at end-of-life.
The transfer of pollution, particularly, of toxic waste from rich to poorer countries is both immoral and often, illegal. The confirmed presence of at least 1,200 tonnes of asbestos and the still undetermined tonnes of materials contaminated by chemicals, such as the probable human carcinogen, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, within the structure of the SS Norway must be addressed in a manner that upholds human life and dignity, as well as protecting the environment. They cannot simply be passed to developing countries and unprotected workers operating in substandard facilities. Moreover developing countries can no longer bear a disproportionate burden for dealing with global hazards from post-consumer wastes.
The substandard and dangerous conditions in Asian breaking yards, such as Alang where the SS Norway is now anchored are now well known. It is estimated that one death per day takes place from the unsafe operations conducted in the Alang yards. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on the Dumping and Illegal Movement of Toxic Waste (OUHCR) has looked into the disposal of ships in developing countries in several of its reports, and has signaled with great concern on the human rights violation that this practice entails.
In official documents of the United Nations treaty on hazardous wastes, the Basel Convention, the gap in the environmentally sound management of end-of-life vessels in the developing country yards is very much acknowledged. Independent assessments point to the fact that "workers at the dismantling sites in Alang are exposed to these (toxic) contaminants 24 hours a day, living as they do within the immediate vicinity of their workplace." 1(Emphasis supplied)
Disposing of the SS Norway in Alang, India, particularly without prior-decontamination or pre-cleaning in developed nations, flies in the face of international legal norms and is unacceptable. This type of dumping to save the costs of proper asbestos, PCB and other hazardous waste management systems being in place will be a black mark on SCLs corporate image and history for years to come.
We consider that any potential accident or occupational disease arising from the disposal of asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other toxins from the SS Norway in India or any other developing country that could have been avoided had NCL and Star Cruise Lines exercised due diligence and care, as a basis for future potential liability. As owners of the vessel, NCL and SCL were privy to this illegal trade, and must act now to remediate it.
In light of the foregoing, the NGO Platform along with the rest of civil society, make the following request of NCL and SCL:
- Immediately make a good faith effort to buy back the SS Norway and sell the vessel to those which would seek to re-use the vessel rather than dispose of it. It is known that buyers for the vessel for re-use exist. It is expected that NCL and SCL will seek this option if it entails a loss on the current scrapping deal.
- If for some reason that effort fails, then NCL and SCL must agree to fund and offer full decontamination of the vessel of all asbestos containing material, and solid and liquid matrix PCBs and all other hazardous waste materials present in the SS Norway regardless of who the owner is. Such decontamination or pre-cleaning must be done in a country that is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at a facility that is fully capable of managing all such wastes in the optimum manner described in the Guidelines set forth by the Basel Convention, the International Maritime Organization and the International Labor Organization. SCL must agree to make this offer public.
- SCL and its subsidiaries must pledge to assure pre-cleaning of all of its future vessels prior to re-use, recycling or disposal at end-of-life. All such pre-cleaning must take place in OECD countries and be in accordance with the aforementioned guidelines.
The NGO Platform and its constituency intend to either reward SCL/NCL for their actions or alternatively are prepared to punish NCL/SCL on the basis of their willingness to take responsibility as outlined above. The NGO Platform is prepared to conduct a long-term campaign to inform consumers and the travel industry of SCL/NCL's actions. If NCL fails to take responsibility for the SS Norway and other vessels in its fleet, the NGO Platform will drive home the message to all NCL and SCL cruise ship passengers that the very vessel they enjoy now will be the very instrument that would kill and maim poor Indian and South Asian workers and pollute the environment when the vessel reaches its end-of-life because their owners refuse to do the right thing.
We hope that NCL and SCL do not allow the situation to arrive at this point, and will see the merits in corporate responsibility.
Global NGO Platform on Shipbreaking
On behalf of the following NGOs: Ban Asbestos Network India, Basel Action Network, Greenpeace, Bellona Europa, European Federation for Transport and Environment, North Sea Foundation, International Federation for Human Rights, Ban Asbestos, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, L'Association pour le Paquebot France, Corporate Accountability Desk India, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association and Young Power in Social Action.
Please note that a copy of this letter has also been sent to:
The German Federal Ministry, the German Basel Focal Point, the European Commission, Basel Convention Secretariat, and the UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. As well as Star Cruises Malaysia – Mr. Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay
1 Basel Technical Guidelines on the Full and Partial Dismantling of Vessels, p. 34.
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