The Atlantic Star scam

4 Apr 2013

The Atlantic Star remained disused in Marseille for more than 2 years. Construction of the Atlantic Star at La Seyne-sur-Mer in 1984 had mobilized, as in all cruise ships, significant amounts of asbestos.

The ship belonged to the Spanish shipowner Pullmantur, a subsidiary of the American company Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Her operation became prohibitive; replacing her steam turbines with a diesel propulsion was impossible. The Atlantic Star, still in the hands of Spanish interests, remained under the European flag of Malta until March 1, 2013.

The Belinda Shipholding Corp. based in the Marshall Islands then became the owner of the Atlantic Star, and under the flag of Togo she was renamed Antic. This exotic company serves only as a platform of resale for the demolition of old European passenger ships. In 2009, the company took possession of Kapetan Alexandros A, an old ferry built in the UK in 1962, owned by a Greek shipowner and flying the Maltese flag. The Belinda Shipholding Corp. immediately renamed the ship Alexandros and reflagged her to Sierra Leone before sending her to Turkey for demolition.

On March 19, towed by the Greek Ionion Pelagos, Antic left the pier of Marseille for demolition, probably in Turkey. However, on March 22, the convoy announced that it was headed towards Port Said, gateway to the Suez Canal, to eventually be demolished on the beaches of Alang, in India. Authorities and Indian associations have been alerted by Robin des Bois. In early April, the wind is turning again, and the convoy is now heading to Aliaga, Turkey.

Whether it is towards India or Turkey, Atlantic Star’s final trip is unlawful. Spain, Malta and France organized and agreed not to meet their responsibilities under the European regulations on the export of hazardous waste. The departure of the Atlantic Star has not been notified under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

In this case, France has a dual responsibility. On the one hand, the Atlantic Star departed from Marseilles, so France was the last port state; on the other hand, in December 2012, STX France of Saint-Nazaire’s order for a cruise ship from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was accompanied by a very special annex clause: the “recovery” of the Atlantic Star. Instead of dismantling the Atlantic Star in Europe, with all the financial and technical constraints of a strict asbestos removal and disposal of other hazardous wastes, STX France sold the old ship to Skandinor, a subsidiary of STX Europe headquartered in Norway. At the end of the line is Belinda Shipholding Corp. of the Marshall Islands, the now legal owner of the Atlantic Star in charge of her hazardous demolition.

This montage illustrates the tendency of European shipowners to evade their responsibilities when it comes to a vessel’s final voyage: sales to bogus companies and transfers under funereal flags such as Togo, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Moldova, Tuvalu, Sierra Leone or the Comoros, and finally demolition in India, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh.




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