Thursday, 1 July 2010

Trafigura: MARPOL or Basel for Probo Koala Waste

In a post a few days ago - Trafigura: Probo Koala Waste – Amsterdam – I postulated that Dr Busch was incorrect in asserting that the Probo Koala’s waste fell under the aegis of the MARPOL regime and not under the Basel convention.  Had the Basel convention applied very strict rules would have governed the handling and processing of the waste.

His reply – which was unflattering to me to say the least – contained a detailed and technical article he had written in 2007 giving the rationale for the Probo Koala’s waste to be considered as being covered by the MARPOL regulations.

With his permission I now put this paper online here:

Why These Slops Were Not Covered by the Basel Convention

The 6 page document has a few pages of very heavy technical “stuff” but you can skim quite quickly to get the gist and more.

My impression, and Dr Busch may call me a “slimy toad” again, is that this paper was written by, or for, Trafigura.  I am quite prepared to be wrong but my impression would remain.  See what you think.

Again, a few days ago I said this,

“My impression is that Trafigura and its supporters are taking the following line:   By all means had the waste been very dangerous then there would have been reason to go after Trafigura but the waste was not dangerous and so why pillory the company?  The only reason now to attack Trafigura is to assuage political pressure.”

I am not saying that there is a concerted plan to take this line but the line is appearing.  Even if there were a concerted plan there would be nothing wrong in following it.

On 24 June I reported this through AFP,

“Lawyers for a firm charged with dumping possibly deadly waste in the Ivory Coast in 2006 argued Thursday that the case against it was based on a "myth", spread by greens, politicians and the media.
The Ivorian government says 17 people died after caustic soda and petroleum residues were shipped away from the Port of Amsterdam and redirected to Abidjan, where they were dumped on city waste tips.
Multinational Trafigura, whose chartered ship the Probo Koala dumped the waste in Ivory Coast, is charged with breaking Dutch environment and waste export laws and faces a two-million-euro fine at its trial in the Netherlands.

The company, which has already reached an out-of-court settlement with the Ivory Coast government, denies any link between the waste and casualties.
"It has not been proven that the events in Ivory Coast caused serious harm to the health of the population, or that they could have done," defence lawyer Mischa Wladimiroff told the court Thursday.

He said the toxic waste had fuelled "a defamation campaign against Trafigura by environmental activists, journalists and politicians."

The case, he argued, was built on a "myth", based on "numerous suppositions based on the incorrect facts" relayed by the media and politicians on the harm caused by the waste.

"Were it not for political pressure... Trafigura would not be appearing here as a defendant in your court," he told the judges.”

Then on 26 June a Dutch newspaper published an article by Karel Knip, a translation of which I put online here – courtesy of Dr Busch.

Within that article was,

“It is unthinkable that the materials in the waste of the Probo Koala could have caused chronic damage to the health of the people in the Ivory Coast who were exposed to them; let alone believing that people died from it. From model calculations one can deduce that nobody was exposed to concentrations which could have had physiological or toxicological effects.”

Now I don’t differ markedly from Knip: I wouldn’t be so definite but by and large I have no problem with his statement.  The article’s timing might be viewed as judicious.

And more recently we’ve had Dr Busch asserting on this blog that the wastes were covered by MARPOL and not by Basel.

The path is here:

The wastes didn’t / couldn’t have killed anyone.

The wastes weren’t nearly as dangerous as the media and activists have made out.

The wastes only required the MARPOL regulations to govern their handling and treatment.

Only political pressure and “myth” has brought Trafigura to court.

We didn’t need to have this big fuss, did we?

Really there is no case to answer.

Again I say that I am not claiming that there is any strategy to promote this line.

I wonder what I can find to post about tomorrow.

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