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Marine Log

March 19, 2008

EPA acts against exporter in "toxic ship" case

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a federal complaint against Global Shipping and Global Marketing Systems, Inc. for distribution in commerce and export of PCB-containing materials on the MV Oceanic, formerly the SS Independence, a ship being sent by Global to be scrapped overseas.

Export of the ship has not pleased the Basel Action Network, an environmental group concerned about the export of toxic ships and has also upset preservationists who would like to see the U.S. the National Historic Preservation Act used to prevent its being scrapped.

The EPA says fines against Global Shipping and Global Marketing Systems, Inc. may be assessed up to $32,500 per violation per day.

The MV Pacific Hickory is towing the MV Oceanic to its final destination.

"Federal law prohibits companies from exporting PCBs, including those in ships, that are sent overseas to be scrapped," said Rich Vaille, Associate Director for waste program enforcement in EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "When companies illegally export PCB waste, they are circumventing U.S. requirements for proper disposal. PCB waste must be properly disposed to protect public health and the environment."

Global has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint to avoid a penalty assessment without a hearing.

The EPA says it was not informed by Global of its intention to export the ship for disposal. The previous owners, Norwegian Cruise Lines, bought the ship through a wholly owned subsidiary with the intent to put it into service in the United States. The paperwork showing that Norwegian Cruise Lines had sold the vessel to Global was not submitted to the Maritime Administration until the ship had already sailed.

Export of PCB materials from the United States is a violation of EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act. Vessels such as the MV Oceanic, which was built in the early 1950s, were commonly constructed with PCB-containing materials including cables, electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers, watertight seal material, and painted surfaces.

More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the production of this chemical class in 1978. PCBs were commonly used in paints, industrial equipment, plastics, and rubber products. EPA banned this class of chemicals after tests showed that PCBs cause cancer in animals and adversely affect the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems in humans.

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