Good Company

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Ship Nobody Wants

Reported in Marianas Variety:
A TUGSHIP towing a disabled cruise liner loaded with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB and asbestos is reportedly on its way to Guam to refuel here after being refused entry in Hawaii.

The SS Independence -- now called the Oceanic -- is being towed by the tug ship Pacific Hickory, which needs to refuel before heading toward India, where the 57-year-old contaminated liner will be scrapped.

KITV News in Hawaii reported that the tug ship was headed to Guam, towing the SS Independence.

Activist and former senator Hope Cristobal has asked the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to stop both ships from coming anywhere near Guam.

"The ship was refused entry into the Hawaii by the State of Hawaii EPA because it poses too much health risk. Now, it is being towed toward Guam. We have reason to be very concerned," Cristobal said.

"Just to get it near Guam will be very dangerous. We don't want to die here. If the tug ship needs to refuel, it needs to refuel out in the ocean and away from Guam," she added.
The international activist group called Save the Classic Liners has urged the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA to impound SS Independence, warning that breaking it down in Asia would release toxic PCBs and asbestos.

SS Independence, which was one of the prides of the U.S. flag merchant marine, was built in Quincy, Mass., by Bethlehem Steel and launched in 1950. It made its maiden voyage from New York on a cruise to the Mediterranean 57 years ago this month.

Its operator, American Hawaiian Cruises, went bankrupt when tourism dropped after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

According to the global toxic trade watchdog organization, Basel Action Network or BAN, SS Independence was purchased by NCL in 2003. In 2005 ownership was transferred to what is believed to be a shell company known as California Manufacturing Corporation.

The historic ocean liner had its final voyage from Honolulu, arriving in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2001 and has since mothballed in the berth.

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