Banned ship carrying toxics heading to India: Report

The ship contains tonnes of hazardous asbestos, PCBs, fuel and chemical residues.

Last Updated: Jun 01, 2011, 11:22 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: A toxic-laden ship named Probo Koala, which was recently banned from entering the marine boundaries of Bangladesh, is now heading towards Indian shores for dismantling, reports claimed on Wednesday.

As per reports, a global group of activists called `NGO Shipbreaking Platform` has raised an alarm over the ship’s entry into the Indian waters citing grave environmental concerns.
The ship, a 1989-built oil carrier cargo vessel weighing 31,255 tonnes now named Gulf Jash, has landed in controversy in Africa and Europe for illegally trying to offload its on-board toxic material.

The ship’s previous owner company Trafigura was penalized heavily for trying to dump toxic material in Amsterdam after the Dutch authorities came to know about it.

Timely action from the Dutch authorities forced the company to send the ship to Africa.
After trying its luck in Nigeria, the company finally found a dealer in Ivory Coast to dump the chemicals off board. Hundreds of tonnes of toxic chemicals were poured into the country`s largest city, Abidjan, which eventually led to the death of 16 people and thousands others fell ill.

The oil trading company Trafigura had to pay a one hundred billion CFA francs (152 million euros) in damages to the victims of the toxic poisoning in Ivory Coast in an out-of-court deal with the Ivory Coast government which exempts it from legal proceedings in that country.
According to the environmentalists, the ship contains tonnes of hazardous asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, fuel and chemical residues which have not been cleaned up before sending the ship for breaking down.

Environmentalists across the globe have been demanding ships owned by companies in the developed world should be rid of all toxic material before being sent to shipyards in poorer countries. But the global shipping companies, vary of the costs involved, have preferred not to do so on several occasions.

The Basel Convention, an international treaty, also prevents rich countries from transporting hazardous waste and chemicals to developing countries without prior information.

However, the shipping firms and firms for dismantling old ships have evolved ways to benefit with the loopholes of the Basel convention by registering the ships in developing countries under shell companies carrying what are called `flags of convenience` which permit them to bypass the treaty.

The Probo Koala is registered in Panama. The last confirmed owner of the ship was a group called GMS, which has faced charges of trying to smuggle out another dirty ship in the US.