Toxic Trade News / 14 September 2006
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12 Human Rights/Green Groups Call for an Immediate Halt on Scrapping of 'Toxic Ships' Following Recent Findings of Death and Disease in India – Prohibition must begin with 'SS Norway'

NGO Platform on Shipbreaking - Press Release
14 September 2006 (Brussels, New Delhi) – In the wake of recent findings made by a special committee established by the Supreme Court of India revealing alarming indications of asbestosis and death by accidents now afflicting thousands of workers in the world's largest shipbreaking yards in India, i a world coalition of environmental, human rights and labor groups, has demanded an immediate halt to the export and import of ships to developing countries that have not been first pre-cleaned to remove hazards.

They asserted also that the SS Norway, now lying on the beach at Alang and expected to contain 1,200 tonnes of asbestos, be denied breaking at once and released from the beach.

"Any authorization to break the SS Norway or any other toxic ship is tantamount to the state authorizing murder," said Gopal Krishna, director of Ban Asbestos Network of India. "It is capital punishment for the poor."

The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking ii has also demanded that India cease its unique and illegal interpretation that the Basel Convention controlling transboundary movements of hazardous waste does not apply to ships and the materials in the structure of ships. They called for India rather to immediately implement the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment, as well as its own Supreme Court order on Ship Breaking No. 657/95 which requires precleaning of ships prior to import.

"It is very sad to note that had India complied with their international treaty obligations all along, many lives and a great deal of suffering could have been avoided," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network. "The Basel Convention and its prohibition on dumping toxic waste on developing countries was a treaty created for just this reason."

The Platform further called for full compensation for all the workers and families afflicted by occupational death and disease and for a comprehensive health and safety survey to be conducted by an independent, international team in all of the South Asian breaking yards to assess the true extent of risk and harm to shipbreaking workers and their families.

"The recent findings have sadly corroborated all we have been saying about the horror show now taking place in South Asian shipbreaking operations for years now," said Ingvild Jenssen, coordinator of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking from Brussels. "The death and disease now evidenced in the lungs of the victims and by numbers of accidents, is on the hands of an uncaring shipping industry, corrupt governments, and is all due to a shameless greed."



For more information contact:

Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India, in New Delhi, India: + 91 98180 89660

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, of Seattle, USA: +1.354.0391 (mobile), +1.652.5555 (office)

Ingvild Jenssen, NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, in Brussels, Belgium: +32 485 190 920


Summary of Demands:

  • Immediate cessation of all export and import to ship scrapping activities in India and South Asian shipbreaking yards unless ships have been precleaned of asbestos, PCBs and all other hazardous materials. This is fully in line with the Basel Convention, the Basel Ban Amendment, the Basel Convention Ship Dismantling Guidelines and the Indian Supreme Court order on Ship Breaking No. 657/95.

  • That the cessation must begin with the SS Norway, now lying on the beach in Alang, India.

  • That India immediately cease pretending that the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment does not apply to ships and ship construction materials.

  • That a comprehensive health and safety survey must be conducted by an independent, international team in South Asian breaking yards to assess the true extent of risk and harm to shipbreaking workers and their families.

  • That full compensation be granted the workers and their families that have suffered death and disease at the hands of the shipbreaking/shipping industry

  • That legal proceedings be initiated against the shipowners and shipbreaking yard owners to ensure compensation and damages are paid for by those responsible.

i The recent findings made by a special 12-member Committee of Technical Experts, headed by Prodipto Ghosh, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, has submitted its 200-page report to the Supreme Court last week. The report by the generally conservative committee indicated that x-rays of workers show asbestosis disease in 16% of the workforce and an alarming rate of accidental death of 2 workers in 1000 per year. Asbestosis is a lung disease which causes respiratory debilitation and failure and can lead to lung cancer. There is no cure.

ii The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking includes the following organizations: Greenpeace, the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, International Human Rights Federation (FIDH), Bellona, Basel Action Network, Ban Asbestos Network, Ban Asbestos Network India, Bangladesh Environmental Law Association (BELA), Young Power in Social Action (YPSA, Bangladesh), Corporate Accountability Desk (India), North Sea Foundation, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

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