Supreme Court to Hear "Blue Lady" Case
The Supreme Court of India is set to hear one of the most important cases of the past decade. The future of India's shipbreaking industry hangs in the balance as the court hears the case regarding the "Blue Lady" a former Norwegian cruise ship laden with asbestos, PCBs, and other contaminants.
Opening arguments are set to start this week with a ruling expected sometime during the summer. On one side India's lucrative shipbreaking industry and on the other side environmentalists and community advocates.
The main issue is whether India should require ships to be decontaminated in their home country before being dismantled. Under the 1986 Environmental Protection Act, India banned the commercial importation of asbestos. Community advocates argue that second hand importation of asbestos through toxic ships is thus illegal under that provision.
India is home to the notorious Alang Shipyard which has been featured by numerous human rights groups as an example of the unsafe working conditions and exposure hazards faced by shipbreakers.
A recent protest of nearly 30 thousand villagers occurred after a preliminary report by the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) recommended the ship be dismantled in Alang contrary to an earlier ruling in October 2003 by a lower court.
In December of 2006 India's second highest court reaffirmed the lower courts ruling but only weeks later an application was officially lodged to have the ship towed to port and dismantled against court orders.
The cruise ship's demise has been in limbo since a fire disabled the ship in May 2003 while docked in Miami.