MUMBAI, India -- In a defeat for an environmentalist, India's Supreme Court has ruled that the ship that spilled millions of gallons of oil in waters off Alaska in 1989 can be recycled in the nation's biggest scrapyard.
A two-judge team headed by Altamas Kabir said the Oriental Nicety, formerly known as the Exxon Valdez, may enter the yard in Alang, on India's western coast, following a May decision by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board that denied the ship entry. The judges said the ship's owner or its agent will be responsible for disposing any toxic material found in the ship.
Priya Blue Industries, a Gujarat-based company that bought the ship for scrapping, plans to bring it into the yard in two days from the anchorage off the state's coast, company founder Sanjay Mehta said in a telephone interview. It will take five months to tear down the ship, Mehta said.
The verdict is "disappointing," said Gopal Krishna, the New Delhi-based activist with ToxicsWatch Alliance who approached the court in April to bar the ship's entry. Krishna had said the ship poses an environmental threat because it had asbestos and heavy metals aboard.
Hardik Shah, member secretary of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, didn't answer two calls to his mobile phone today.
The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, devastating wildlife and local businesses. Victims of the spill sued Exxon Mobil Corp. and won a $5 billion punitive damage award in 1994 that was cut to $507.5 million in 2008 by a divided U.S. Supreme Court.
In the petition filed in India's Supreme Court, Krishna had said the 988-foot ship, built in 1986, was purchased by Best Oasis Ltd., a unit of Priya Blue, for $16 million.
Alang, which opened in 1982, has the capacity to break ships of about 4 million metric tons a year, according to Gujarat Maritime Board website. The yard directly employs about 25,000 workers, according to the Board.