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SC refuses controversial US ship to drop anchor

May 14, 2012 16:43 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to grant controversial US ship Oriental Nicety, earlier known as 'Exxon Valdez' and involved in one of the worst US oil spills off Alaska in 1986, an immediate permission to anchor off the Gujarat coast.

A vacation bench of justices Deepak Verma and S J Mukhopadhyaya said it would await response of the ministry of shipping and transport on the issue before passing any orders.

Senior counsel Vikas Singh appearing for the ship owner submitted his client had complied with all the norms set in 1995 for de-contamination of foreign vessels before entering the Indian waters or for anchoring on its coast.

He denied the allegations that the ship contained hazardous materials.

The bench, however, said it was not inclined to pass any order. "We will wait for the response of the Union shipping ministry," the bench said.

The apex court on an application by the NGO Research Foundation of India, had on May 3 directed the Union shipping ministry to it inform it by August 13 on steps taken by the government to prevent dismantling of ships in India in the wake of allegations of violation of international convention on trans boundary movements of hazardous wastes.

The apex court's direction had come on the plea of counsel Sanjay Parikh, who, appearing for the NGO, had sought a ban on the entry of foreign tanker Oriental Nicety, and restrain it from anchoring near Alang beach in Gujarat.

According to Parikh, the International Basel Convention 1989 mandates a ship to be decontaminated from the exporting country before being sent abroad for its dismantling.

"Both counsel are requested to take instructions on the statements made in the interlocutory application and to inform this court about the steps being taken to prevent the ship berthing in any of the ports in India, without following the conditions indicated in the Basel Convention," the apex court had earlier said.

The court was hearing a PIL by NGO, Research Foundation for Science, on safe drinking water in the country when the application was moved by Parikh.

Parikh had told the court that "the contaminated ship has entered into Indian waters, though it has not yet been allowed to berth in any of the ports without taking proper steps for decontamination in the port of export".

The court sought the replies of the Centre and the shipping ministry in six weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on August 13.

The Basel Convention on 'the control of trans boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal' was adopted on March 22, 1989, in response to a public outcry following the discovery in the 1980s in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.

It aims at reduction of hazardous waste generation and promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes at the place of disposal and restriction of trans boundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the norms.

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