Scrapping company responds to EPA complaint
A Maryland company that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said last week plans to improperly scrap the former passenger liner Independence overseas, said “all approvals and permissions required for the vessel to depart USA were duly obtained prior to the sailing of the vessel.”
The administrative complaint was filed by the EPA because it alleges the Independence, now known as the Oceanic, was allegedly contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.
But in a statement, Anil Sharma, president and chief executive officer of Global Marketing Systems, said, “To suggest or to imply that the vessel sailed out without the knowledge of, or without necessary approvals from the U.S. authorities is absolutely false and misleading.”
Global Marketing Systems and sister company Global Shipping were both named in the complaint after the ship was towed from San Francisco Bay on or about Feb. 8.
“It appears to us that the EPA has made claims and statements to the media without investigating the facts with us. We believe that the EPA is acting on the e-mails sent by various individuals and/or NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) with their own personal agendas,” Sharma said.
“Regrettably, these groups have made inaccurate and generally baseless allegations. To this date we have not seen any proof (independent or otherwise) of the quantity of hazmats on board the vessel. In spite of our own investigations, we cannot find these proofs,” he said.
Sharma said “due to the confidentiality clauses in the contracts we cannot comment on the final use of the vessel at this time,” though the EPA alleged it was being towed for “demolition to a location outside of the United States.”
The EPA said it was not informed by Global of its intention to export the ship for disposal. The previous owners, Norwegian Cruise Lines, bought the ship through a wholly owned subsidiary with the intent to put it into service in the United States.
The EPA said paperwork showing that Norwegian Cruise Lines had sold the vessel to Global was not submitted to the Maritime Administration until the ship had already sailed.
But Sharma said, “to the best of our knowledge, MarAd is required to be notified when the vessel is sold to a ‘foreign company.’ In this case, such a situation does not exist as the vessel was sold to a U.S. company. Notwithstanding, MarAd is indeed aware of this sale.”
The ship was originally built by Bethlehem Steel’s yard in Quincy, Mass. in 1951 for American Export Lines. It has not operated under its own power since 2001.