April 20, 2005

Denmark asks India to return toxic ferry

Greenpeace India reports that Denmark has asked India to return a ferry headed there for breaking--on the grounds that the ship is "illegal traffic" under the Basel Convention.

The vessel in question is the 51-year old former Great Belt ferry Kong Frederik IX (now known as Frederik).

On April 15, 2005, the Danish environmental minister, Connie Hedegaard, sent a fax to Indian environment minister Mr. A. Raja, alerting him that the ship is expected to arrive in India by April 20, 2005

According to the fax, the shipowners escaped Danish authorities, misleading Danish officials that had ordered the "Kong Frederik IX" to remain in Denmark until it had been decontaminated.

Instead, the ship slipped out of a Danish port, and quickly changed its flag and name (to Frederik) and headed straight for the ship-breaking yards of Alang in India' Gujarat State for breaking. The Danish Minister is asking India to consider this ship illegal traffic under the Basel Convention and have it returned to Denmark so it can be stripped of hazardous substances.

In her letter, Ms. Hedegaard stated: "I believe our interests are joint--and I call on you to cooperate in this case by denying the ship to be dismantled in India--and refer the ship to be returned to Denmark in order to be stripped of the hazardous waste. By this we can send a strong signal that neither India nor Denmark will accept export of environmental problems that could be solved locally, and that we--as governments--will not accept this kind of foul play which results in lasting damage to the environment."

The Basel Convention and European Union laws implementing it define ships destined for breaking as hazardous wastes if they contain harmful waste substances.

Under the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and the Basel Ban Amendment decision, OECD countries are prohibited from exporting hazardous wastes to non-OECD nations.

The letter from the Danish authorities also reminds Indian authorities of an Indian Supreme Court order prohibiting the import of hazardous wastes, and requiring India to participate in international negotiations with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of all hazardous substances prior to export.

"In the case of ships-for-scrap, this order has only been observed in the breach," said Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner Greenpeace India, speaking for a coalition of environmental and trade union groups, "Instead of enforcing full decontamination, the Indian Government has shown remarkable leniency towards ship-breakers who violate the law by importing ships containing hundreds of tons of toxic substances including asbestos and chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls. The Basel Convention rules are clear--they demand that India respect Denmark's request to declare the ship illegal traffic and refuse to allow it to be dumped in India."

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