Exxon Valdez Ship Still Causing Controversy, Even As It Heads to the Shipbreaking Yards of India

It's the end of an era, yet continuing on the same tack at the same time: The Exxon Valdez, yes the same ship that caused the iconic massive oil spill in Alaska after it run aground, is heading to India to be broken down, after being formally retired from service earlier this year. But as Business Line reports even as it nears death (as it were), there's still a good deal of controversy around the ship.

ToxicWatch Alliance is objecting to the ship being granted permission to land at the Alang shipbreaking grounds in Gujarat, India. TWA reports that the ship is currently about 12 miles off Mumbai, halted by a Supreme Court decision.

TWA says the ship poses an environmental threat due the presence of asbestos and PCBs in the ship.

At least part of the objections raised are about the conditions in which ships in general are broken down in India as the Exxon Valdez itself:

Mr Krishna [from TWA] said apart from the threat to the marine ecology, workers too faced grave danger. “Workers labour on tidal sands to cut ships up by hand, exposing themselves to the risk of toxic chemicals, fires, explosions and falling steel plates,” he said, and added that dismantling the hazardous vessel could not be achieved on a tidal beach, as was currently being done.

Though this photo is from shipbreaking grounds in Bangladesh, it is an essentially similar situation in Gujarat. Ships are run aground and then broken down by teams of workers, with the metal being recovered.

TWA says that since the 80s more than 5000 foreign ships have been processed in the Alang yards, causing harm to the nearby marine environment.

For those that don't know, for many years the Alang shipbreaking yards were a de facto photographers' tourist attraction. You could enter the yards and photograph the work relatively freely. It's a very dramatic scene. But since alarms were raised about the affect of the work on the environment and the hazardous conditions for the workers, access is much more strictly controlled.

As point of fact, the Exxon Valdez had not actually gone by that name for some time. Since the oil spill in 1989, the vessel had gone through many name changes, the last being the Oriental Nicety, after it was purchased for scrap metal (for the second time) in Singapore by an Indian firm.

Exxon Valdez Ship Still Causing Controversy, Even As It Heads to the Shipbreaking Yards of India
ToxicsWatch Alliance questions the conditions the workers must labor in, the threat to the marine environment, and the manner in which the ship was given permission to be broken down.

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