Sunday, April 27, 2014

Death of a USCG Queen in Ensenada, Mexico

It’s important to note that we will not post any photos of STORIS in the scrapyard or being dismantled. These photos are too hard to look at for anyone who cares about the ship. It’s more important to remember her as she was.

With that established, the scrapyard in Ensenada is nothing more than a dock and an apparent floating drydock adjacent to an open field. Workers tear apart the ships with torches, the pieces are removed by a crane on the dock and the scrap dumped in open trash bins. As indicated in the previous post, there are no facilities in Mexico that are capable of disposing of PCBs in an environmentally safe and approved fashion. It also is important to note that this scrapyard is located directly adjacent to the public swimming beach in Ensenada. The scrapyard and opposition to the facility by area environmentalists have been chronicled in Mexican blogs/media (in Spanish): 

Information about STORIS and the contamination she likely contained was sent to the environmentalists quoted in this story but we received no response.

Information related to STORIS, her construction and the documentation related to probable PCB contamination was forwarded to Mexican environmental officials with SEMARNAT, the equivalent of the U.S. EPA and PROFEPA, the enforcement division of SEMARNAT. Representatives of the Basel Action Network, (BAN), also made attempts to contact their associates in Ensenada to locate STORIS and make Mexican officials aware of the potential for environmental contamination with the ship’s pending dismantling. BAN is a nonprofit based in Seattle that works to stem the trade in toxic waste, particularly with the transfer of dangerous materials like PCBs to lesser-developed countries. Shipbreaking and the associated risks of environmental contamination are a special concern for the group. Phone calls by BAN representatives to the shipyard associated with the scrapping facility met with denials that a ship named STORIS was moored at either location.

Illustrating the dangers and inadequacies of the operations at this scrapyard, on Nov. 2, yard workers using cutting torches ignited a blaze aboard a former Alaska fish-processing barge BERING STAR being dismantled at the dock adjacent to STORIS. This fire and the resulting toxic smoke clouds and evacuations received substantial coverage in the Mexican media. This actually helped us pinpoint STORIS' location, as we were not sure exactly where she was within the Port of Ensenada. The associated photos confirmed our worst fears when it was determined that she was in the scrapyard owned by Amaya Curiel Co.

Here is an associated story from (in Spanish)

The white ship in the photos is CGC STORIS (then referred to as the “VILA QUEEN” in Mexico, a probable attempt to disguise the ship's true identity). Attempts to locate STORIS in Ensenada were met with evasive answers and one media report related to the BERING STAR fire had an interview with a scrapyard worker that claimed that "VILA QUEEN" was an old research ship used for meteorological observation and the ship was never in the U.S. Coast Guard. It all seemed very suspicious that the identity of the ship was being intentionally muddled.

Here is the news story link (in Spanish):

And contrary to the negative description in the La Cronica news story, STORIS was actually in excellent physical condition and would have been easily reactivated as an active vessel, perfect for museum use and training opportunities for young sailors. Her value was in reactivation, not scrapping. All she needed was a good soogeying and a fresh coat of paint. And the comparative peanuts STORIS was sold for would have been realized exponentially by her use as a museum in Northwest Ohio. This whole series of events can't be explained off by the federal government as a money-making venture, not for $70,100.

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