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Dutch shipping bosses in court over 'toxic' ship dumping

[THE HAGUE] Six Dutch shipping company bosses will appear before a Rotterdam court on Wednesday accused of deliberately dumping old ships on the beaches of India and Turkey.

"The prosecution service alleges that the suspects planned to have the boats dismantled in India and Turkey in violation of European laws on transferring waste," the prosecution said.

The companies, which belong to the Seatrade group, face fines of up to 750,000 euros (S$1.23 million), while the bosses could face up to six months in prison with two months suspended.

Investigations by port police revealed that the companies planned to have four ageing vessels from Rotterdam and Hamburg broken up on the Indian and Turkish beaches.

A vessel named Spring Bear apparently ran aground in 2012 on Alang beach, in the western Indian state of Gujarat which became a major worldwide centre for ship breaking.

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Spring Bob apparently finally came ashore in Bangladesh, while two others, Spring Panda and Spring Delia, were demolished in shipyards in Turkey, the investigations found.

"These boats sailing towards their final destinations contain huge quantities of dangerous substances, such as bunker oil, lubricants, and chemical products like chlorine and asbestos," the prosecution said in a statement.

If these substances have not been removed from the vessels before they are stripped down, then they must be treated as toxic waste, it added.

Under European rules, all transfer of such waste for elimination is banned to countries such as India, Bangladesh and Turkey.

In August 2006, toxic residues on board the Panamanian-registered Probo Koala freighter were prevented from being offloaded for treatment in Amsterdam's port.

The ship was instead sent to Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast, where the waste was dumped on the city's garbage sites and in at least 18 locations.

Over 500 cubic metres of spent caustic soda, oil residues and water killed 17 people and poisoned thousands, Ivorian judges have said.


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