Shipping & Shipbuilding News - 28 February 2007
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The Murky Case of the Blue Lady
The murky case of the Blue Lady may sound like an Agatha Christie novel, and indeed, like the eminent author's plots, this one is just as intriguing if not as convoluted, if a report in the Times of India is accurate.

Better known as the ss NORWAY, the BLUE LADY currently half sits on the beaches of Alang awaiting final permission for the breakers torches to do their worst.

But as in Ms Christie's books, nothing in the case of the old NORWAY is as simple as it sounds.

She was towed towards Alang amidst a fierce international and Indian row over whether or not she should be scrapped there. In May 2006 petitioners filed an application to the Supreme Court of India asking the court to ensure the vessel complied with international law, and the Court's own orders of 2003, before it was permitted to be beached and broken up at Alang. The Gujarat Maritime Pollution board banned the ship from entering Indian waters.

The following month the Supreme Court ruled that permission had to be given to allow the vessel safe anchorage in Indian waters pending any further decisions, because to allow her to wander the oceans would not exactly be the wisest option for an old ship that might have to battle a monsoon or two.

Although she now had permission to enter Indian waters, she instead was towed on the 13th June to Fujairah in the UAE. One of her tugs puts in for repairs there. She left the port on the 17th and (bear in mind she did not have permission yet to be beached), heads for Pipavav Port, a distance of 65 km from Alang itself, and drops anchor.

After much inspections and reports the ship was finally given the green light to be ran onto the Alang beaches and on August 15th 2006 the old lady finally reaches the graveyard and is partly beached.

The wrangles continued from then on throughout the rest of 2006

This year, despite being a main objector in the previous year, the Gujarat Pollution Board in a report to the court this month said that any attempts now to float her about again would be very costly and unwise, therefore, India was quite literally stuck with her and they would have to continue with dismantling no matter what objections were raised.

However, just as the plot seems to have got boring, in comes a spanner. A petition to the court is now claiming that the run to the UAE that the Blue Lady made, even after permission was granted for her to enter Indian waters, has something decidedly fishy about it.

Quite what the petitioner thought she was up to is hinted at as the petition says the shifting of the vessel raises concerns 'about breach of national security besides flouting of court orders'

According to the Times of India this is with reference to a passage in a report of the Indian Directorate of Naval Intelligence which believed " ...(any) vessel bound for ship-breaking has genuine cover to anchor everywhere for emergency repairs. This would afford ample opportunity to the crew to indulge in activities detrimental to our security"

It would appear then that with all other avenues lost to objectors the only other course is to imply the vessel was engaged in something 'nefarious' when she went that trip to the UAE.

Either the petitioner, or the Times of India, are barking up the wrong tree or this case is too big a one even for Miss Marple...

(Picture: 2001 Gavin Stewart)

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