Faced with a July 30 petition from India's ToxicsWatch Alliance, India's Supreme Court ruled that vessels arriving for recycling in Indian waters containing hazardous materials, such as asbestos or PCBs, must follow the United Nations Basel Convention treaty on hazardous waste movement.
Of the 175 parties to the UN treaty, only Afghanistan and Haiti have signed it; the US has signed, but not ratified it, said Wikipedia. American treaty ratification takes a two-thirds majority vote in the US Senate.
But the Indian court decided that the former Exxon Valdez, a tanker known for the major 1989 Alaskan oil spill, would be the last ship to arrive in India without the Basel rules being applied, said the report.
The court ruling means India can no longer accept ships from Europe or the US. It also means that India must first be notified as to all hazardous materials contained on board and must approve ship importation from all sources for scrapping before the vessel arrives, Basel Action Network said.
"Finally, the Supreme Court in India has dragged its government to face the fact that India for a long time has been violating international law with respect to its uncontrolled imports of toxic ships for scrapping. It will no longer be able to do so," said Basel Action Network director Jim Puckett.
"Hundreds of poor and desperate labourers have been killed or exposed to hazardous chemical, as a result of the disastrous shipbreaking practices on Indian beaches; hopefully this ruling will be the beginning of the end of the dark ages of ship recycling," he said.
But others say low-tech, low-cost shipbreaking provides well-paid work by standards of the Indian subcontinent, which will no longer be available. The Basel Action Network has previously recommended that shipbreaking - or "recycling" - be done in more expensive US scrapyards instead, arguing that having it done in poor countries exports American jobs.