I have more information about last year’s trial at which Trafigura was found guilty of illegally exporting waste from Amsterdam to Abidjan.
One of the key points, which I have debated with Gary Busch, is whether the Probo Koala’s waste from washing coker naphtha with caustic soda arose from a normal operation of a ship. Busch shared Trafigura’s thinking.
Despite Trafigura’s claim, the court found that the process was NOT a normal operation of a ship.
Some of the court’s reasoning is outlined below. [This is a translation from Dutch and there are a few glitches but I have left the translation ‘as is’.]
“It appears that in this case, the washing process was carried out on board a ship, since the ship was obviously no longer welcome on land.
On 18 April 2006, [name 21, Christophilopoulos] wrote the following in an e-mail addressed to his co-workers at Trafigura, the subject line of which read "PMI shit": "We are coming up with some problems regarding the treating/disposing of the PMI naphtha out of Brownsville. We are now limited to caustic washing on a ship"(lxxxiv). On 27 December 2005, [name 7, Ahmed] sent an e-mail to his co-workers which contained the following: "We have already spoken to all the main storage companies, US/Singapore and European terminals no longer allow the use of caustic soda washes since local environmental agencies do not allow disposal of the toxic caustic after treatment" (lxxxv).
The ship was also no longer welcome in La Skhirra (Tunisia) after the noxious smell incident (lxxxvi).
However, regardless of the reason, this essentially boils down to the moving of an industrial process from land to sea. The ship was not used for its designated purpose as a ship, but instead as a floating factory which was carrying out a process for which it was in no way necessary for the ship to be at sea since all of the resources necessary may be obtained on land.”
In the current appeal, Trafigura will be arguing that the reasoning, shown above, is wrong.
In March last year I blogged,
“but the focus, I think, will be on their knowledge and intent before the dumping of the waste ….”
“It is unfortunate that this court case will come down to the meaning of ‘normal’ and will not look at Trafigura’s knowledge and intent.