Congress Mandate to Eliminate the Obsolete Fleet
The ship disposal programs of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the U.S. Navy are tasked with the responsibility to dispose of all obsolete naval vessels that have been determined to be of insufficient value for commercial or national defense purposes.
Both MARAD and the Navy explored alternatives to ship recycling in an attempt to meet mandates at least cost to the government. Vessels were at one time exported to the deadly shipbreaking beaches of South Asia, but when
these Federal agencies have missed congressionally mandated
ship disposal deadlines that were enacted to reduce ship storage and maintenance costs associated with the obsolete fleet as well as eliminate pollution risks to the local marine environment from weakened hulls.
increasingly turned to ocean dumping. Both of these methods find advantage and “least cost” by externalizing costs to the poor and desperate, or to the global commons of our marine environment.
Foreign Dismantling Practices Banned
The export of government owned vessels for disposal purposes is now banned under U.S. law. This ban was the culmination of several events that spanned the course of twenty years, and included: the discovery of polychlorinated
enforcement of the PCB export ban by the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1994; the Federal Moratorium on vessel exports issued by Vice President Al Gore in 1998 following the Baltimore Sun Pulitzer Prize winning exposé on the horrors of shipbreaking practices in South Asia; the lawsuit filed by the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the Sierra Club to block the export of MARAD vessels and to uphold TSCA in 2003; and the recent act of Congress with the passage of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for year 2009 that prevents exports as long as domestic ship recycling capacity exists.
Asbestos is removed from ships at shipbreaking yards in South Asia and sifted to powder for reuse in the local market. Workers do not have access to protective gear nor are they made aware of the risks associated with direct exposures. Asbestos is known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. While the U.S. government no longer sends its vessels to South Asian shipbreaking yards, U.S. commercial ship owners still continue to support this industry. Image Source: © Greenpeace/Ruben Dao/FIDH
BASEL ACTION NETWORK