Monday, April 25, 2005
A ship carrying hazardous waste which reportedly gave Danish authorities the slip last month, landed at Alang on Friday night but Customs and pollution control authorities have kept it under watch as Danish environment minister had warned India about it well in advance. The 4,000-tonne ship has no cargo and sports a different name ‘Riky’ in an attempt to mislead Customs and Gujarat Maritime Board authorities. The ship started its journey as King Frederik IX and later changed its name to Frederik before settling for Riky during transit. Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard had written to her Indian counterpart A Raja on April 15 warning about the arrival of a 51-year-old ship carrying asbestos at Alang to be dismantled. ‘‘It’s a small ship and was probably used as a floating museum,’’ a top Customs official told Ahmedabad Newsline on Saturday after a preliminary inspection. All the 17 crew members are Indian. On the face of it, the ship contains no toxic material. Maybe, it was stripped of traces during transit because its arrival had been highlighted, sources said. ‘‘We are no experts so we have informed pollution control authorities,’’ the official said. ‘‘Despite the new name we found it was the same ship from the history of ownership,’’ the official said. Two days ago, the Environment Ministry had written to authorities in Alang in Bhavnagar district asking them to be on the look out for such a ship. Normally, only two Customs officials visit a ship before it’s given permission to berth. On Friday night a team of eight customs officials, including two superintendents and four inspectors, inspected the ship. On Saturday, the customs got in touch with Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Central Pollution Control Board. A joint inspection will be carried on Monday and the proceedings will be videographed. The ship has been ordered to be kept as it is till then. The crew led by a captain hailing from New Delhi have not been detained as the duty was paid. There were no instructions either to detain the crew or to send the ship back. Quoting the UN Basel Convention which prohibits transboundary movement of hazardous substances without prior notification, the Danish minister had requested Raja to send the ship back to Denmark to strip it off hazardous waste. The Basel Convention and European Union Laws implementing it define ships destined for breaking as hazardous wastes if they contain harmful waste substances. The ship had left Denmark after a heated debate about its destiny. The seller had stated his intentions to scrap it and several bids had been given by Danish scrapping companies. Despite this, the ship was sold to a company in St Vincent and the Danish port authorities could not prevent it from escaping.
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