New names give old ships a break
by Anto T. Joseph, The Economic Times
26 May 2005 (Mumbai) – Ship-owners from all over the world and cash buyers - middlemen who sell junk ships to breakers in India, Bangladesh and China - have found a novel way to shrug off their responsibilities regarding "environmentally sound disposal" of old ships. The modus operandi involves changing the name of the ship and reselling it to ship-breakers.
Industry officials have pointed an accusing finger to a controversial Danish ship that was beached at Alang for demolition, after two successive name changes. 'Kong Frederik IX', which sailed from Denmak, was rechristened 'Frederik' before its departure, and was again renamed 'Ricky' during the voyage. The ship was in the eye of an international storm after Indian authorities allegedly refused to pay heed to the Danish government's requests not to allow beaching of the ship at Alang.
A Dubai-based shipping company recently bought two ships - 'Rugen' and 'Crowning Margrethe', again from Denmark. "The ships were sold on the pretext that they would be put back into trading. However, the new owner had tried to sell them to shipbreakers in Alang for demolition. Chances are that these ships would change names and end up in a demolition yard surreptitiously," said sources.
Ship-breakers from India have continued to argue that the onus for safe demolition of junk ships should rest on the shoulders of the ship-owner. "Foreign ship-owners generally wash off their hands when the ship had lived its economic life, and are least bothered about their responsibilities," said one.
"Most ship-owners, who make a killing by chartering ships, clandestinely enter into deals with cash buyers, who do not take up any responsibilities. We are trying to promote a new system by which owners sell ships only to registered ship-breakers. This would prevent owners to sell ships through middlemen re-sell ships after changing the name," said a senior shipping ministry official.
Recently, the Indian government has submitted its proposals to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) committee for safe disposal of junk ships. "Apart from these issues, we have also raised other issues like a level-playing field. While Indian breakers adhere to international norms, their counterparts from Bangladesh and Pakistan do not observe such norms," said the official.
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