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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
AP The Exxon Baton Rouge, a smaller ship, attempts to off load crude oil from the Exxon Valdez on 26 March 1989. The ship ran aground in the Prince William Sound in Alaska, spilling more than 270,000 barrels of crude oil.
# Exxon Valdez
Gallery: India's top court bans Exxon Valdez from anchoring
The Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 saw millions of gallons of crude oil spill into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Indian authorities say the ship is toxic.

INDIA’S SUPREME COURT has banned the Exxon Valdez from entering India, saying the ship involved in one of the worst U.S. oil spills will not be allowed in for dismantling until it has been decontaminated.

The ship, now known as the Oriental Nicety, entered Indian waters last week and was headed for the western Indian state of Gujarat, when the Supreme Court gave its order.

The ship was bought recently by the Hong Kong-based subsidiary of an Indian shipbreaking firm and was being taken to the coastal town of Alang, the hub of India’s shipbreaking industry, for dismantling.

After the court’s orders, Gujarat maritime authorities and the state’s pollution control authorities have withdrawn the permission they had granted to the company to anchor the ship near the Alang beach.

The Gujarat company contracted to dismantle the ship plans to appeal the court order.

“We will abide with the Supreme Court order. We are studying the order, and will appeal”, said Harshadbhai Padia, a partner in the company.

On March 24, 1989, millions of gallons of crude oil spewed into Alaska’s ecologically sensitive Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez dashed against rocks, coating the shoreline with petroleum sludge and killing nearly 40,000 birds. The spill caused incalculable environmental damage and demolished the area’s fishing industry.

Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp., spent $900 million in restitution in a 1991 settlement and is battling more litigation from the spill.

The tanker moved on, with five name changes since the spill and ownership changing repeatedly, apparently to keep the ship in use while distancing it from the disaster.

The Indian court cited a U.N. convention that calls for decontamination in a ship’s country of export. Mercury, arsenic, asbestos and residual oil can contaminate ship hulls and holds.

India has one of the world’s largest industries for breaking down old ships and oil tankers centered around Alang, and workers in the coastal town are expected to process the ship to salvage scraps of metal and parts that retain value.

However, environment activists say that shipbreaking companies do not follow any precautions while breaking and handling end-of-life ships, exposing workers and the environment to toxic materials.

Gallery: India's top court bans Exxon Valdez from anchoring
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  • Exxon Valdez

    26 March 1989: The Exxon Baton Rouge, smaller ship, attempts to offload crude oil from the Exxon Valdez. The ship ran aground in the Prince William sound, spilling more than 270,000 barrels of crude oil. Experts called it the United State's worst oil spill ever. (AP Photo)
  • Exxon Valdez

    11 April 1989: Thick crude oil washed up on the cobble beach of Evans Island sticks to the boots and pants of a local fisherman in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill on 24 March blackened hundreds of miles of coastline. (AP Photo/John Gaps III)
  • Exxon Valdez

    April 1989: Killer whales break the surface of the waters of Montague Straight on Prince William Sound, Alaska, swimming through slicks of crude oil left over from the spill of the tanker Exxon Valdez. (AP Photo/John Gaps III)
  • Exxon Valdez

    April 1989: The Exxon Valdez till under repair in Prince Williams Sound in Ouside Bay, Alaska. The State of Alaska questioned Exxon about further leakage, and tested water to prove that the ship was still leaking oil in to the Sound. (AP Photo/Stapleton)
  • Exxon Valdez

    May 1989: Ray Bane, superintendent of the Katmai National Park, digs into a thick pool of oil on the park'’s shoreline on the Alaska Peninsula. Oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez had moved hundreds of miles from Prince William Sound where the nation'’s worst oil spill occurred on March 24. Several thousand dead birds were found along the park's shore. (AP Photo/John Quinley)
  • Exxon Valdez

    September 1989: About 25 fishing boats circled off shore from the Alyeska Pipeline terminal in Valdez, Alaska, Sept. 9, 1989 protesting the use of foreign tankers to transport oil from Valdez, the methods used in cleaning oiled beaches in Prince William Sound and the oil industry's failure to address safety problems which the fishermen believed caused the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The protest was organized by the Cordova District Fishermen Union. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)
  • Exxon Valdez

    1989: Sea Otters, killed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, are placed in bags before being flown to Valdez and put in an animal morgue. ROB STAPLETON/AP/Press Association Images
  • Exxon Valdez

    In this February 2008 picture, Nancy Bird shows oil-soaked soil collected in May 2007 from Smith Island in Prince William Sound, on display at the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova, Alaska. With the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill nearing, she said "Scientists tell me the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear."

Video uploaded by CBS

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