Ship Blocked from Entering Scrap Yard by Indian Court

Her reputation tarnished in life, the Exxon Valdez remains unpopular as death approaches. The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that before she enters that country for dismantling, the oil tanker must submit to a thorough decontamination. The Valdez has undergone several incarnations since March 24, 1989, when she crashed into rocks along the Alaskan coast, spilling crude oil by the millions of gallons into Prince William Sound. The petroleum sludge that subsequently blanketed the shoreline caused immeasurable damage to the environment, killing over 40,000 birds and devastating Alaska's fishing industry. Following this disaster, the Valdez changed hands repeatedly, receiving a different name each time. A Chinese subsidiary of an Indian ship-breaking firm made the final purchase, intending to break her up for scrap. At 26 years of age, the Valdez is relatively young to be scrapped; however, over her lifetime she has suffered considerable damage. In addition to having her hull split open in the Alaska catastrophe, the hapless Valdez experienced further insult in November 2010 when, sailing under the name Dong Fang Ocean, she collided with the Maltese cargo ship Aali in the South China Sea. The coastal town of Alang, located in the western Indian state of Gujarat, is home to one of the world's major ship-breaking industries, and it is adept at dismantling old and unwanted vessels. During the first week of May 2012, the doomed tanker, now known as the Oriental Nicety, entered Indian waters and proceeded to make her way toward Alang. The tanker's owners did not know that Indian environmental activist Gopal Krishna had already filed an application with the Supreme Court, requesting that it instruct the government and ministry of shipping to obtain information about what would be done with the ship. Before the tanker could reach Alang, the Indian Supreme Court issued its decree. Gujarat's maritime and pollution control authorities immediately withdrew permission for the Oriental Nicety to anchor by the beach in Alang. In making its decision, the Indian Supreme Court cited 1989's Basel Convention concerning the need to decontaminate a ship in its country of export. Such noxious wastes as asbestos, arsenic, mercury and residual oil can contaminate other vessels. Harshadbhai Padia, a partner in the Gujarat ship-dismantling company in charge of deconstructing the Valdez, has announced plans to fight the decision. "We will abide with the Supreme Court order," he said. "We are studying the order, and we will appeal." Reference:
  • Memmott, Mark. (May 9, 2012). “Indian Court Blocks Exxon Valdez From Entering Scrap Yard.” Retrieved on May 9, 2012, from NPR.
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