The government rushed into action a day after report of toxic ship Probo Koala, now known as Gulf Jash, heading to Gujarat for dismantling even as country’s law fails to prevent entry of such ships.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said that he has sought a report on Gulf Jash from the Gujarat government after Bangladesh refused entry to the ship involved in controversial death of 16 persons in Ivory Coast, where it dumped its toxins in 2006.
“Yes, I have asked for the report,” the minister said.
For many environmental activists such as Gopal Krishna, convener of NGO Toxic Watch Alliance, preventing entry of Gulf Jash into Indian territorial waters will not be easy.
“Many ships enter India on basis of fake papers hiding the fact that they have toxins. Most of these toxic ships originally of the companies registered in Europe are sold to buyers who then register them in Panama. Its entire history is then wiped out,” he said.
Gulf Jash is also registered in Panama and an official of US based Global Marketing Systems, the alleged owner of the ship, told HT that the ship does not contain any toxins. “It has been used to ferry dry cargo since the Ivory Coast incident,” the person who identified himself as Rizwan said.
He explained the history of the ship since illegal dumping of toxins in Ivory Coast allegedly caused death of 16 persons but claimed that the company is not its owner. He, however, did not deny that it was negotiating to buy Gulf Jash. “We negotiate to buy many ships,” he said.
As the news of Gulf Jash entering India spread, Alang based Leela Group was prompt to claim that it has not bought the ship. “We have no connection to her or have any information regarding the vessel,” a statement issued by Corporate Communication department of the company said.
As per rules, a foreign ship for dismantling is allowed entry only if it has an Indian buyer. In the past, ships denied entry into Bangladesh such as SS Blue Lady was bought by Indian ship breakers and were dismantled in Alang in Gujarat.
If the government wants the environment ministry can direct the port and coast guard authorities prevent to a ship from entering India on the grounds of containing toxins. In 2009, the ministry has stopped entry of US ship Platinum II allegedly carrying 200 tonnes of asbestos and 210 tonnes of materials containing toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) from entering Alang.
This time, the ministry’s action will depend on the report it receives from the Gujarat government.