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52

2011

DISHONORABLE DISPOSAL

Beaching operations allow no opportunity for containment of pollution, access to operations by cranes and emergency equipment (e.g. fire trucks, ambulances) and violate all norms of hazardous waste management. Even dockside

operations

in

countries like

China,

while

superior to beaching methods, must contend with a national context lacking in societal safety nets such as trade unions, tort law, downstream waste management (particularly for PCBs and asbestos), rigorous enforcement, etc.

iv. Best Value Considerations Sending U.S. government owned vessels overseas for scrapping outsources American jobs and toxic waste, while placing the domestic

recycling

industry

disadvantage.

Many

at

a

competitive

overseas

scrapping

Domestic Recycling

In 1950, 2,277 vessels formed the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF);152 this abundant supply of non-retention vessels spawned the development of a strong U.S. ship-recycling industry and a successful public-private disposal partnership that lasted throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. By 1974, 30 domestic recycling companies were fulfilling government ship disposal contracts153 with the capacity to recycle all obsolete Navy and MARAD vessels domestically.

However, ship disposal declined significantly throughout the 1980’s Cold War buildup as the Navy worked to increase the active and reserve fleets to maximum capacity. At the same time, ship-scrapping operations shifted overseas to the shipbreaking beaches of South Asia as the U.S. government realized it could maximize profits by exporting vessels to countries lacking

152http://www.marad.dot.gov/ships_shipping_landing_page/natio nal_security/ship_operations/national_defense_reserve_fleet/na tional_defense_reserve_fleet.htm

Maritime Administration, Report on the Program for Scrapping Obsolete Vessels, Report MA-2000-067, March 10, 2000 153

BASEL ACTION NETWORK

facilities in developing countries may provide scrapping services at least cost, but cheap labor,

including

child

labor

and

a

lack

of

environmental regulations, does not constitute best overall value when externalities are calculated.

v. Conclusion As long as the Duncan Hunter export ban remains the law of the land, export will be impossible as U.S. capacity remains large and expandable. However, schemes to export to U.S. territories such as Saipan may become a possibility. With export being largely taken off

the table, the externalization,

next best regrettably

avenue for cost

the

overriding

theme of U.S. policy, will be ocean dumping via reefing or SINKEX.

enforceable environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and where cheap labor could be exploited. As a result, the domestic ship recycling industry nearly died out entirely during this period.

As mentioned in the previous section, with the export option being curtailed in 1994, the government was forced to turn back to the domestic recycling industry as it had once before. Though, with the discovery of PCBs in

various

shipboard

components,

domestic

recycling became more of a service to the government, rather than a profit generating scheme as environment and worker safety requirements brought about higher costs. In an effort to avoid these real costs, the government has long attempted to externalize these costs by any feasible means. And with the export option now securely off the table with the passage of the Duncan Hunter export ban for year 2009 and beyond, the government has looked increasingly favorably toward ocean dumping and currently has unduly prioritized ocean dumping over that of domestic recycling.

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