The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the dismantling of controversial US ship MV Oriental N,formerly called Exxon Valdez,at the Alang Ship Recycling Yard in Bhavnagar.
The apex court,however,ruled that in future no vessel should be dismantled in the country in contravention of the Basel Convention,an international treaty on cross-boundary movement of hazardous wastes that,among others,insists on prior consent by the host country and prior decontamination of vessels in the country of origin,said a lawyer representing the petitioner over the phone from Delhi.
The entry of the former oil tanker,which gained notoriety for running aground and spilling more than one lakh barrels of crude oil off the Alaskan coast in 1989,has been stalled since May after Delhi-based activist Gopal Krishna filed a petition demanding it not be allowed since Basel Convention rules had not been followed.
Government agencies with jurisdiction over the yard at Alang told the SC that an inspection of the ship,which was converted into an ore carrier a few years ago,found no hazardous wastes in loose form onboard. As per the rules framed on the basis of the SCs earlier orders on shipbreaking,the government can therefore allow the ships entry for dismantling,they had said.
The ship is currently anchored about six nautical miles off Alang.
In their affidavits,the MoEF,the Gujarat Maritime Board,the Ministry of Shipping and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board said there is no hazardous waste in loose form on the ship. But none has ever filed an inventory of materials found onboard. The court has said that during dismantling if any waste is found in the ship,it should be disposed of through proper process in the landfill and the cost borne by the ship owner, said Sanjay Parikh,the advocate who represented Krishna.
A government official at Alang,who did not wish to be named,said that disposal costs being borne by the owner is standard practice at the yard,and that non-loose waste found onboard ships are disposed of by a company,which is specially hired for the purpose,into a special treatment facility currently being expanded.
The strict implementation of the Basel Convention has alarmed government officials because the Alang Ship Recycling Yard,considered Asias largest,produces up to four million tonnes of recycled steel per year,besides providing wares to a thriving antiques and second-hand furniture market nearby and supports up to five lakh jobs directly or indirectly.