Trafigura pollution scandal continues

This video is called Probo Koala trailer (Côte d’Ivoire toxic waste spill).

By Marietta Harjono:

How one company is getting away with a human and environmental tragedy

September 25, 2012 at 11:00

Six years ago a multinational company bought large amounts of unrefined gasoline in the US and refined it through an industrial process called caustic washing onboard a ship, the Probo Koala, in the Mediterranean Sea.

During one night in August 2006, this waste was later dumped in at least 18 different places around Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, close to houses, workplaces, schools and fields of crops. Abidjan, a vibrant city of more than 3.5 million people, was engulfed in a terrible smell that witnesses have described as thick, suffocating, akin to a mix of rotten eggs, garlic, gas and petroleum.

Probo Koala

Health centres and hospitals were soon overwhelmed. Over 100,000 people received medical care, according to official records. National authorities reported that between 15 and 17 people died.

What’s more, the company was long aware that the waste that they created onboard the Probo Koala was hazardous… and expensive to dispose of.

That company is Trafigura.

Today, Greenpeace and Amnesty International are releasing the most in-depth report into the incident ever concluded. We are calling for the UK government to begin a criminal investigation into Trafigura’s actions, for the victims to receive justice and international action to make sure this never happens again.

The Toxic Truth is the result of a three-year investigation and looks at the tragic litany of failures that created a medical, political and environmental disaster. It is a story of corporate crime, human rights abuse and governments’ failure to protect people and the environment. It is a story that exposes how systems for enforcing international law have failed to keep up with companies that operate trans-nationally, and how one company has been able to take full advantage of legal uncertainties and jurisdictional loopholes, with devastating consquences.

With medical treatment and time, the symptoms have abated, but for many the fear remains. Six years on, the people of Cote d’Ivoire still do not know what was in the waste. It had been illegally exported from Europe, illegally brought into Abidjan, and illegally dumped there. Numerous laws – both national and international – had been ignored.

In the Netherlands, Trafigura was prosecuted in relation to the illegal export of waste to Africa. This case was initiated by Greenpeace. Not only does Trafigura have an office there, this was also where it first tried to have the waste treated – and where the price tag rose after it became evident the content of the waste wasn’t what it had said. They were found guilty.

In September 2006, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise barred the Probo Koala from leaving port when it docked in Estonia. Back then we demanded that the Estonian authorities investigate the ship, and the European Commission, to ensure this never happens again.

Greenpeace has followed this from the start and will not rest until Trafigura is held to account.

Trafigura has spent over US$300 million using every scheming technique available to a multibillion dollar company to evade justice after the dumping. For that amount it could have paid for the proper disposal of the toxic waste almost five hundred times over.

And it could have saved a human and environmental tragedy of an unimaginable scale.

Find out what Greenpeace is doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Marietta Harjono is a Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner

See also here.

Probo Koala pollution threat continues

This is a Dutch TV satire video, in English, called Pirates of the Probo Koala.

From a press release by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform:

Infamous Probo Koala Sent for Dismantling

NGOs call on Bangladesh: Stop Death Ship Before it Kills Again

24 May 2011, Brussels – The Probo Koala, now re-named the Gulf Jash, a ship which caused an environmental and human rights disaster in the Ivory Coast in August 2006, has been sold for scrapping on the infamous ship breaking beaches of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations represented by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform fear that the Probo Koala will be allowed to perpetuate its deadly legacy by being broken down in unsafe and environmentally damaging conditions. The NGOs call on the government of Bangladesh to refuse the import of the death ship and say no to illegal toxic waste trade. It is expected that the Probo Koala contains many tonnes of hazardous asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, fuel and chemical residues. Currently the ship is located in Vietnam.

In 2006, the transnational company Trafigura used the Probo Koala to illegally dump 528 tonnes of toxic waste in Abidjan, the largest city of the Ivory Coast, causing the death of 16 people according to the Ivorian authorities. Global Marketing Systems (GMS), a US company specialised in the brokering of vessels for demolition, confirmed it had bought the ship last week, but had so far not disclosed its final destination. However its website listed that one of the advantages of utilising Bangladesh as a destination for end-of-life vessels is the lack of requirements for testing for gas residues within the ship. These gases might ignite and explode when a shipbreaking worker uses a cutting torch.

“The Probo Koala already is a symbol of an unaccountable and irresponsible shipping industry,” said Bangladeshi lawyer and director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Rizwana Hasan. “We demand that this ship and all others like her, carrying toxic substances and intent on exploiting yet again the population and environment in the developing world, be barred from entry into Bangladesh.”

Shipbreaking as is done on the beaches of South Asia is one of the world’s most dangerous and polluting enterprises. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has, through its member organisation BELA, successfully petitioned in the Bangladeshi courts to stop the import of toxic ships for breaking, and safer methods of breaking ships already exist today. However, due to intense political and economic pressure from the shipbreaking and shipping industry, the court ruling has temporarily been lifted pending further decisions. Unless and until the High Court decision is allowed to stand, toxic ships will continue to pile up on the beaches of Bangladesh where they are broken apart by hand exposing workers to explosions and occupational disease, while contaminating the coastal environment.

UN official says legal aid cuts will stop Trafigura-type victims’ cases: here.

COTE D’IVOIRE: Toxic Waste Victims Wait Years for Compensation: here.

What Dow Chemical doesn’t want you to know about your water: here.

Trafigura pollution case appeal

This is a satirical video from the Netherlands about Trafigura and the Probo Koala scandal.

Translated from Dutch news agency ANP:

Appeal against Trafigura sentence

Published: August 7, 2010 11:18
Last updated: August 7, 2010 11:45

AMSTERDAM – The Public Prosecutor will appeal against the ruling of the court in Amsterdam against Trafigura oil company. …

The court imposed two weeks ago on Trafigura a fine of 1 million euros for exporting hazardous ship waste to the Ivory Coast.

The commodities trader was acquitted from the accusation of forgery for lack of evidence. The prosecution believes that there is enough evidence, and therefore thinks that the penalty should go up.

Forbes greenwashes ExxonMobil

From Mother Jones magazine in the USA:

ExxonMobil: “Green Company of the Year?”

— By Josh Harkinson | Thu August 27, 2009 1:03 PM PS

Editors know that counterintuitive headlines sell magazines. They also know that making wildly exaggerated claims can damage their credibility. Writing a headline tends to be a balancing act between these two factors. So when you see a magazine like Forbes say that ExxonMobil is “Green Company of the Year,” as it did this month, what it’s really saying is that it’s hurting. With advertising pages way down this year, the magazine feels the need to sell off its long-term credibility with some readers for the short-term gain of boosting page views. That, at least, is my take on what Forbes was thinking. Because there’s simply no way that any serious reporter would wrap Exxon in a shroud of green. …

If that sounds a bit harsh, then consider the truly abysmal nature of Exxon’s broader environmental record:

1. Exxon has a long history of funding groups “whose position on climate change could divert attention” from the need for clean energy, the company went right on funding them.
2. Exxon is a leading opponent of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, the very legislation that would begin to price dirty coal out of the market. In May, the Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation released a wildly exaggerated study claiming that an emissions cap will kill millions of jobs and send gas to $4 a gallon (The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found middle-class households would pay only $175 a year more in 2020 because of the legislation). And on August 18th, 3,500 energy workers rallied against the climate bill in a Houston demonstration organized by–you guessed it–Exxon and other energy companies, a leaked memo from the American Petroleum Institute reveals.
3. The Exxon Valdez oil spill. See dictionary entry for “environmental genocide.”
4. Exxon is an aggressive player in Canada’s tar sands, the world’s top producer of ultra-dirty oil.
5. The natural gas pumped by Exxon still contributes to climate change. Indeed, natural gas is currently responsible for about 20 percent of US carbon emissions.

See also here.

Big Oil Gets in on Right-Wing Astroturf Game: here.

It was probably only a matter of time, but the oil lobby has taken a page from the anti-health-care-reform manual in an effort to drum up opposition to climate change legislation in Congress: here.

The UN Human Rights Council has been presented with “strong” evidence yesterday linking at least 15 deaths in the Ivory Coast to pollution from a ship chartered by the world’s third-largest private oil and metals trader: here. And here.

Gag on Guardian reporting MP’s Trafigura question lifted: here.

Some days ago Labour MP Paul Farrelly tabled a series of parliamentary questions for written answer. There was nothing unusual about that. It is the daily business of the House of Commons. What was unusual was that until 2:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, when a court injunction was lifted, those questions could not be reported by any British news media, although they appeared on the parliamentary web site and had been published on the parliamentary order paper: here.

BBC removes Trafigura story after legal threat: here.

Amazonian natives say they will defend tribal lands from Hunt Oil with “their lives”: here.

Shell greenwashing video: here.

Global warming deniers, cartoon

Toxic Waters: Regulatory Absence Allows Chemical, Coal and Farm Industries to Pollute U.S. Water Supplies: here.

A grassroots organizer has quit the Nature Conservancy to head up grassroots outreach for the oil industry’s biggest trade group, a highly unorthodox career move that has set off nervous ripples in the capital’s green community: here.

BP and Shell face new shareholder revolt over tar sands: here.

A UK government checklist of claims for advertisers will fail to stop cynical greenwash without a legally enforceable framework: here.

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