Two US-flag Ships Sold by US Company Might be Scrapped, says BAN

Sale alleged by BAN to violate International law; MARAD has received assurances that the vessels are intended for commercial trade.

Green campaign group Basel Action Network (BAN) says the two US-flag ships sold by a US company to be scrapped means the US would be breaching international law.

BAN says one of the ships, the 1979-built, 21,050 dwt Ro-Ro “ex-Pvt James Anderson Jr”, sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, on Tuesday (25 August). The group says it expects the other vessels, the “ex-1St Lt Alex Bonnyman,” to also leave Norfolk very soon.

BAN claims the export “marks the first time the US government has allowed a US flagged ship in the service of the government to be sent to South Asian beaches since the Clinton Administration called for a moratorium on such exports in 1998."

BAN states the sale of these ships is a break in the Jones Act regarding US-flagged ships and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which forbids the export or the "distribution in commerce" of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The group also says there are high concentrations of PCBs on these ships.

The group says it has sent a series of letters to the EPA and MARAD warning of the “imminent and likely violations of US laws and, called specifically upon the EPA, to at least require the ships to be tested for PCBs before being exported.”

BAN said “to the great surprise of the environmental watchdog organization, that had worked with the EPA in numerous instances in the past, the Obama administration refused to act.”

"This is really shocking. The EPA under the Bush Administration took action every time our organization warned of a pending TSCA violation. Their record of enforcement was strong. Now, president and his administration for the first time in ten years is willing to ignore the law and dump toxic waste onboard US flagged ships on developing countries," said Jim Puckett, BAN's executive director.

Late today, however, a Marad spokeswoman told MarEx that they had no reasons to believe that the vessels were headed for scrap. In fact, in a letter dated August 24, 2009, Star Maritime wrote to the Maritime Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, saying in part: “We understand that there are certain rumors being circulated to the effect that the owner is currently planning to scrap these vessels. These rumors are unfounded. We reiterate to you that the owner currently plans to employ the vessels in the cargo trade. The owner has taken steps and incurred significant expenses since acquiring title to these vessels on July 15, 2009, to prepare the vessels for trade.”

The ultimate intended destination of the vessel(s) remains unknown. In the commercial maritime world, this type of secrecy is not uncommon. Beyond this, the vessels have not yet been proven to contain PCBs. Nevertheless, BAN remains adamant that the vessels are indeed toxic and headed for scrap.