ssNorway could still be saved for Dubai

PLANS to save the former transatlantic liner ssNorway and bring her to Dubai as a luxury floating hotel are still underway despite recent setbacks in India, where the ship is currently harboured in preparation for dismantling.

By Khaleej Times Scrutiny Team

Published: Fri 25 Aug 2006, 10:10 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 6:16 PM

Project Dubai, which has been working for months to buy the ship from Indian scrappers, remains committed to the ship and to bringing her to the UAE according to the project's principals. Support for Project Dubai also continues to grow, with more than 50,000 people writing to one campaigner alone pledging support to save the ship.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities are coming under sustained attack and criticism over their handling of the ssNorway and, the ships’ recent 'beaching' in Alang in apparent defiance of a Supreme Court order. The ship was towed onto the shore on August 15, but has not been fully beached.

Khaleej Times has obtained a copy of a letter from the former head of India's High Powered Committee on Hazardous Wastes, Professor MGK Menon to India's Chief Justice, the honorable Shri YK Sabharwal.

His letter follows a recommendation made by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to allow the ship to be broken in India. The report has been widely criticised by environmental groups as 'lacking scientific rigor' and of making a 'mockery of appropriate public policy'.

Professor Menon strongly warns that any attempt to dismantle the Norway, which contains high levels of asbestos, would violate not only Indian but also international law. The Norway is thought to contain more that 1,000 tonnes of asbestos. Project Dubai has pledged to have the asbestos removed using the 'highest known international standards of safety' before refurbishing the ship to her former glory.

Following the ship's grounding the Supreme Court issued a strict warning that no further moves should be made to dismantle the ship until the court has studied the latest findings.

And, in an exclusive interview, the head of the company which conducted an earlier survey of the Norway, said the Gujarat inspection and report clearing the ship for breaking in India was at odds with their findings.

Briac Beilvert, chief executive officer of Paris-based Ship Decommissioning Industries, told Khaleej Times his company conducted a detailed inspection of the ship in 2003 following the boiler room explosion that eventually led to the decision to scrap the ship.

He said: “We challenge the relevancy of the report issued by the Gujurat committee in respect of the diagnosis of asbestos being on board and in respect of the process that will be set up to handle and dispose of it safely.”

Mr Beilvert's earlier report concluded there were around 1,200 tonnes of asbestos on the ship, as well as other pollutants. But the Gujurat report estimated just 216 tonnes despite making only a 'visual inspection', taking no samples and admitting that many of the team were so seasick during the inspection they were made 'giddy'.

The fate of the ssNorway has become a focal point for how the shipping industry deals with ships it no longer wants. The Basel Convention, of which India is a signatory, requires all ships be decontaminated in their home country before being moved to foreign countries for dismantling.

Last night Project Dubai principal John Voet said they remained hopeful and confident they could still buy the ship from the scrappers. “the ship can be refloated at the next high tide in September and, as far as we know, has suffered no serious damage.

“We know there is huge global support for this ship to be properly cleaned up and brought to Dubai as yet another world class development for the city. I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails from people who said they would visit Dubai just to see the ship.”

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