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November 10, 2009

India bars entry of former S.S. Independence

The Indian Government has ruled that the former S.S. Independence may not be beached at Alang for scrapping.

This is the latest chapter in a long saga that has seen the classic liner go from beloved icon to "toxic ship," depending on one's viewpoint.

In a note to the Gujarat Marine Board, The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) noted that the ship, now named the Platinum II, "violated the U.S Toxic Substances Control Act" and noted that "there have also been allegations that the ship has been brought into India with a falsified flag and registry."

"The Ministry of Environment and Forests is of the view that granting permission for beaching and breaking purposes of the ship will not be advisable," it adds.

The Basel Action Network (BAN) says that the Platinum II formerly known as the SS Oceanic (and originally, the SS Independence) arrived in Indian waters for scrapping on October 8, 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.

BAN says that it has received official confirmation from the Operations Manager at Kiribati Ship Registry, Liau Siew Leng, that the registration was a forgery and that the Kiribati Ministry of Communications, Transport & Tourism Development Office further confirmed the falsified documents.

The Equasis data base, incidentally, lists the ship's flag as "unknown" and lists both the registered owner and ship manager as California Manufacturing of 7665 Corporate Center Drive, Miami, Fla.--the same address as Norwegian Cruise Line. This could simply be a matter of the Equasis record being out of date.

In January of this year, Global Shipping LLC and Global Marketing Systems, Inc., Cumberland. Md., paid a settlement to the EPA of almost a half million dollars without admitting a violation of the law for alleged illegal distribution and export of a PCB-containing ship--the SS Oceanic (the then name of the former S.S. Independence).

On or about February 8, 2008, the ship was towed out of the territorial waters of the United States. EPA alleged that Global Shipping LLC and its affiliated company Global Marketing Systems, Inc. worked together to export the Oceanic for disposal outside the United States, a violation of federal law. The EPA was not informed by Global of its intention to export the ship for disposal.

After EPA initiated its enforcement action, Global submitted a new application to the Maritime Administration seeking approval to sell the vessel but changing the purpose of export from disposal to continued use of the vessel to accommodate labor workers in the Arabian Gulf area.

Global Shipping and Global Marketing are both associated with Dr.Anil Sharma.

The ship was in the Dubai area, as the Oceanic, for about eighteen months fbefore arriving off Alang as the Platinum II on October 7, 2009 under tow by the tug Barakuda I

Had the MOEF not intervened, the ship was to have been broken up by Hariyana Ship Breakers, according to the Save the Classic Liners Campaign, or by Leela Ship Recycling, according to BAN, which says that company is owned by Dr, Sharma's brother, Kormal.

The Save the Classic Liners Campaign lists both companies as "high quality facilities that meet international standards."


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