India court allows Vedanta to reopen controversial plant

The plant was shuttered by the state government in the aftermath of a shooting that killed 13 people. (File/Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2018
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India court allows Vedanta to reopen controversial plant

  • The city of Thoothukudi had been rocked by long-running protests over the plant
  • Protesters say it harms the environment and the health of those living near it, claims the company has long denied

NEW DELHI: An Indian copper smelter at the centre of a police shooting that left 13 protesters dead has been granted permission to reopen by the country's environmental court.
The Sterlite plant, owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources, was closed after the bloody police crackdown in May on protesters who say the smelter is poisoning the air and water.
Vedanta Resources, owned by Indian-born billionaire tycoon Anil Agarwal, had appealed against the plant's closure by the state government of Tamil Nadu where it is located.
The National Green Tribunal, a federal authority which rules on environmental matters, ordered Saturday that the plant in Thoothukudi city could resume operation.
Sterlite CEO P. Ramnath on Sunday welcomed the decision.
"We are happy that all those affected by the closure will get back their source of livelihood and the town of Thoothukudi will revert to normalcy," he said in a statement on Twitter.
The Tamil Nadu state government has said it will appeal the decision in India's highest court.
The city of Thoothukudi, previously known as Tuticorin, had been rocked by long-running protests over the plant, one of the largest in India.
Protesters say it harms the environment and the health of those living near it, claims the company has long denied.
The demonstrations intensified in May after Vedanta sought to double the annual capacity of the plant.
On May 22, police opened fire on thousands of protesters, killing 13 people.
The plant was shuttered by the state government in the aftermath of the shooting.
The company denies all charges and maintains that it adheres to the best environmental standards.
The federal green court ordered Vedanta to spend one billion rupees ($13.9 million) over three years to assist local communities.
But it criticised the pollution regulators in Tamil Nadu, saying they stalled the case by tying up the company in paperwork.


Fujairah joins other ports, tightens exhaust rules ahead of 2020 regulations

Updated 41 min 52 sec ago
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Fujairah joins other ports, tightens exhaust rules ahead of 2020 regulations

  • Under International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules that come into effect from 2020, ships will have to reduce the sulfur content in their fuel to less than 0.5 percent
  • Singapore, China and Fujairah marine sales volumes represent a quarter of global ship refueling, also known as bunkering

SINGAPORE: Fujairah in the UAE has become the latest major port to ban a type of fuel exhaust cleaning system to comply with a coming tightening in rules regarding global sulfur emissions, mirroring similar moves in Singapore and China.
Under International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules that come into effect from 2020, ships will have to reduce the sulfur content in their fuel to less than 0.5 percent, compared with 3.5 percent now, forcing huge changes upon global shippers and also oil refiners.
Fujairah’s harbor master said in a faxed document seen by Reuters that the port “has decided to ban the use of open-loop scrubbers in its waters ... (and) ships will have to use compliant fuel once the IMO 2020 sulfur cap comes into force.”
This follows top marine fueling port of Singapore announcing a similar move in November, while China banned the use of open-loop scrubbers from Jan. 1, 2019.
Singapore, China and Fujairah marine sales volumes represent a quarter of global ship refueling, also known as bunkering.
Impact for shippers
To comply with IMO 2020 rules, shippers can switch to burning cleaner but more expensive oil, invest in exhaust cleaning systems known as scrubbers that may allow them to still use cheaper high-sulfur fuels, or redesign vessels to run on alternatives like liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Scrubbers use water to clean up fuel emissions, preventing them from being released into the atmosphere.
Open-loop scrubbers are the cheapest option, but they have come under criticism as they wash heavy metals and sulfur from the waste water into seas instead of storing it for a controlled discharge in ports, as closed-loop scrubbers do.
Of the more than 2,000 ships that have so far opted to invest in scrubbers, around three-quarters have installed the cheaper, open-loop type, shipping sources estimated.
Closed-loop scrubbers, which store wash water for later discharge, are still accepted in most ports.
Despite the spreading bans of open-loop scrubbers, Douglas Raitt of ship classifier Lloyd’s Register said vessels can still benefit from such systems as they can pump out the waste water in open seas, outside a port’s jurisdiction.
“The benefits of open-loop scrubbers are largely realized in open water during transit from one port to the next,” he said.
Raitt said shippers, however, should consider alternative measures to prepare for IMO 2020, considering that when the new rules come into force refueling infrastructure will be mostly geared toward compliant low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) rather than high sulfur fuel oil (HSFO).
“Prevailing wisdom would be for operators opting for scrubbers to have a meaningful dialogue with their supplier base to secure HSFO post-2020 in ports of call,” Raitt said.