The Gujarat Maritime Board said that the Supreme Court has granted them permission to break up the 11-storey Blue Lady, believed to be laden with asbestos and other toxic materials, in the Alang ship-breaking yard in Western
Gujarat. A technical committee appointed by the SC had been considering options while
evaluating the toxicity of the ship since June. They estimated the ship to contain 210 tons of hazardous waste that needs safe disposal but concluded that the benefits of employment and monetary gains are more than the estimated costs of disposal of hazardous waste such as cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Environmental activists are angry at the decision, which they call “illegal,” and promised to appeal the decision. They claim that the term of the technical committee expired on July 31 while the decision was passed early this month. However, they are not saying if the committee had submitted its report before their tenure was up and it is very questionable if the SC will entertain an argumentative appeal that is uni-directional. Environmentalists also argue that the ship contains 900 tons of asbestos and other heavy metals.
The 315-metre (1,035-foot) vessel was originally called the SS France and later renamed to SS Norway. When the French owners sold it to Malaysian Star Cruises in 1979, it was renamed the Blue Lady. Bangladesh refused to accept this ship for breaking because of its toxic levels.
In February of this year, while looking at the controversy surrounding the French aircraft carrier Le Clemenceau, the SC had asked the Government to
regulate the Ship-Breaking business and it is not clear if the Government has mechanisms and processes in place to comply with the SC verdict. At that time, the French President Jacque Chirac recalled the ship to avoid embarrassment when he visited India later in February 2006.