Ship Exporting US Toxic Waste to Sri Lanka Crashes Baltimore Bridge
Posted on March 30th, 2024

e-Con e-News


Before you study the economics, study the economists!

e-Con e-News 24-30 March 2024

The Singapore cargo ship Dali chartered by Maersk, which collapsed that Baltimore, US bridge on Tuesday 26 March, was carrying 764 tons of hazardous materials to Sri Lanka – mostly corrosives, flammables, miscellaneous hazardous materials, and Class-9 hazardous materials, including explosives & lithium-ion batteries  – in 56 containers. So says the US National Transportation Safety Board, still ‘analyzing the ship’s manifest to determine what was onboard’ in its other 4,644 containers.

     Prior to Baltimore, the Dali called at New York and Norfolk, Virginia, which has the world’s largest naval base. Colombo was to be its next scheduled call, going around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, taking 27 days, scheduled to land just after our New Year.

     Denmark’s Maersk, transporter for the US Department of War, is integral to US military logistics, carrying up to 20% of the world’s merchandise trade annually on a fleet of about 600 vessels, including some of the world’s largest ships.

     The US Department of Homeland Security has also now deemed the waters near the crash site as ‘unsafe for divers’. An ‘unclassified memo’ from the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) says a US Coast Guard team is examining 13 damaged containers, ‘some with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention [CDC] &/or hazardous materials [HAZMAT] contents. The team is also analyzing the ship’s manifest to determine… if any materials could pose a health risk’. CISA says, officials are also monitoring about 1.8 million gallons of fuel inside Dali for its ‘spill potential’.

     The ship had a total of 4,700 containers onboard. Who exactly the toxic materials & fuel were destined for in Sri Lanka is not being reported. Also it is a rather long way for such Hazmat, let alone fuel, to be exported, at least given all the media blather about ‘carbon footprint’, ‘green sustainability’ etc. We can expect only squeaky silence from the usual eco-freaks, who are heavily funded by the US & EU. It also adds to the intrigue of how Sri Lanka was so easily blocked in 2022 from receiving more neighborly fuel, etc., which led to the present ‘regime change’ machinations.

     ee has analyzed dozens of news stories on the Baltimore crash (see ee Sovereignty). No reports in the Sri Lanka media highlight the hazardous materials being carried on the ship. No media reports about who is exporting such toxic waste to Sri Lanka, and who is importing. Instead the US media is attempting to divert attention from Maersk’s involvement. Then again, the media dare not criticize the colonial import-export plantation oligarchy. Yet there was endless media outragification at alleged contamination in a Chinese ship bringing organic fertilizer to Sri Lanka in May 2021 – outrage promoted by English chemical importers to Sri Lanka like ICI-CIC!

     Maersk’s business partner in Colombo, South Asia Gateway Terminal Ltd is owned by colonial conglomerate John Keells. Last November 2023, the US International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) promised a $553 million investment in the Adani Ports-led West Container Terminal port project in Colombo, to be jointly developed with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and John Keells.

     This week saw the US State Department training SL Ports Authority senior staff (see ee Industry, Commercial Law Development Program). In February, Maersk Managing Director Biju Ravi called for Colombo ‘to up its game in terms of swift cargo clearance to increase its transhipment business’! Due to the US & its allies waging wars on West Asia & East Africa, Sri Lanka has become an even more important transit for shipping. The more expensive and longer diversions are blamed by the white media on Yemen – which by ‘international law’ (which the US invokes but does not abide by, see ee Quotes) – controls access through the Red Sea, & Somalia which has Africa’s largest coastline, and could control eastern access to the large continent.

     Maersk also links to Israeli carrier Zim’s ZBA Service through its 2M Alliance with Italy’s Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), sharing 185 vessels deployed on their Asia-Europe, trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trades. Singapore-flagged Dali is deployed on Maersk’s Asia-US east coast TP12 loop and MSC’s Empire Service.

     US media are also diverting attention from Dali’s cargo by insinuating that dirty fuel may have played a role in the ship losing power and hitting Francis Scott Key Bridge, closing the USA’s 5th-busiest East Coast container port. The bridge is named after the composer of the US National Anthem, Star-Spangled Banner’, which begins ‘O say, can you see…’ It is unclear, however, given the massive costs involved, O say, who is allowed to see what!?

     It is more unclear which Maersk-linked US companies export toxic materials to Sri Lanka. Maersk, which US government’s local media mouth EconomyNext calls ‘a global shipping industry giant’, recently partnered with the privatized NDB Bank to help Sri Lanka’s ‘Small & Medium Enterprises’ grow. What SMEs, US-military-linked Maersk wishes to ‘grow’, is unclear. Maersk’s Biju, who wishes ‘swift clearance’, was speaking at an Indian Ocean Strategic Research Centre (IOSRC) collaboration on Feb 1, to ‘address ensuing challenges and opportunities evolving in the maritime region of the Indian Ocean’. The ‘collaboration’ also included Harikrishshan Sundaram (CEO Colombo West International Terminal), Fredrik Haag (International Maritime Organisation/IMO Head of London Convention, Protocol & Ocean Affairs), Chevaan Daniel (Executive Group Director Capital Maharaja Group), and Ruchira Cumaratunga (Professor of Microbiology, Founding Dean, Faculty of Fisheries & Marine Science & Technology). (see ee Sovereignty, Inclusive discourse on Indian Ocean)

     US trucks carrying Hazmat use this Baltimore bridge, designated as a ‘designated hazmat route’. Meanwhile US media were also blaming the Baltimore Bridge collapse on a foreign cyber-attack causing the ship to suddenly change course to hit the bridge. Other US media blame ‘immigration’ for the ship’s totally ‘Hindu’ crew, even as it was Baltimore pilots who operate within the harbor. Yet Asians are used on ships carrying toxic materials over long voyages.

     However, the 6 workers killed beneath the collapsing metal, part of a construction crew fixing potholes on the bridge. were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador employed by US construction company Brawner Builders. The Dali distress signal, provided enough time for traffic to be stopped entering the bridge. However, this road repair crew had to remain on the bridge and was not evacuated.

     Meanwhile US politicians in both major parties are ramping up rhetoric against migrants, often fleeing economic and political instability caused by US government action, and encouraged by US industrial recruiting agencies. US President Biden’s recent State of the Union address, included an anti-migrant rant, lamenting the thousands of people being killed by illegals.”  However, undocumented immigrants are less likely to engage in violent crime than US residents. Baltimore also made other headlines this week as its new $1billion jail for Africans and non-Anglo Americans will be Maryland’s ‘most expensive state-funded project in history’

     Bloomberg Intelligence says, Maersk may not be liable as the Danish company had no crew onboard and the ship was operated by a charter company. ‘Maritime insurance will likely cover some of the costs, yet uncertainty around the total liabilities and who will pay for them will likely weigh on Maersk’s spreads in the near term.’

     The New York Times adds: ‘Ship ownership structures’ are ‘designed to maximize opacity & minimize accountability… While global companies such as Maersk charter the vessels, the owners & the ship managers are generally responsible for managing the crew and maintaining the ships… The extremely opaque nature of global ship-owning makes finding the ultimate owners & holding them accountable for any violations difficult… Shipping is the Wild West from a compliance & accountability perspective… And when compliance & accountability aren’t priorities, issues like environmental standards, labor practices and health & safety often aren’t either.’

     The ship is insured by the Britannia Protection & Indemnity Club, a mutual insurance association, owned by shipping companies. Protection & Indemnity (P&I) clubs are mutual insurance organizations that insure & pool liability for the global shipping industry. About 90% of the world’s ocean-bound cargo is insured by an arm of these International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs, which oversee the 12 major mutual insurance associations for ship owners. These International Group of P&I Associations will be hit the hardest, with the group having significant reinsurance coverage, led by US-owned AXA XL. (see Random Notes for the Dali’s ‘ownership’)

     The ship’s namesake artist, the fascist Salvador Dali, would have been inspired by this truly surreal example of real capitalist ‘globalization’….He just would not gather how it really fits together…or falls apart…


Zimbabwe Teaches US Spies: English as a Colonial Language (ECL)

• 4 US spies, claiming to work for erstwhile philanthropist USAID, were ‘busted & deported’ from Zimbabwe last month This ee carries a report from Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail, how Zimbabwe’s government tracked down, arrested and deported 4 US citizens, contracted by the US Agency for International Development to sneak into that African country. The report charts the activities of these spies through certain institutions Sri Lankas would find very familiar!  In holding unsanctioned & covert meetings, these diplomatic spies had contravened local & international law, violating their own Geneva Convention. They sought to advance the US’ moves to change a government attempting to be truly independent, a government they have viciously opposed, while trying to undermine it through illegal sanctions. Under the guise of a ‘democracy & governance assessment’ to ‘help USAID design its local programmes’, Sri Lankans will find most resonant the itinerary, methods & targets of these spies, as they echo the same playbook imposed here.

     Sri Lanka can learn how we must deal with such infringements on our sovereignty. Especially as this week, the country was said to have ‘welcomed’ the 25th Group of US Peace Corps Volunteers since 1998, which was once kicked out of the country after the attempted ‘Catholic Coup’ against Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1962, but allowed to return under her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga, who as President had fallen under the generous allures of Exxon’s Rockefeller Foundation.

     It should be recalled how England signed the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement with Zimbabwe to end the liberation war, a war which England initially allowed to escalate, as England sought to rein in its white Rhodesian settlers who had wished to industrialize the country, even making a ‘Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).’ After failing to honor their promise to return stolen lands to Africans, England proceeded to vilify the country and its leader Robert Mugabe, who their Queen had earlier even knighted as a ‘Sir’!

     Zimbabwe is once again showing us what it means to be an independent country, a lesson we seem to have failed to imbibe, despite the lessons offered by the fates of SWRD Bandaranaike (assassinated 1959), Sirimavo Bandaranaike (attempted coup 1962, insurrection 1971, loss of civil rights 1980), JR Jayawardena (pogroms 1977-83, terrorism 1984-2009), R Premadasa (assassinated 1993), Mahinda Rajapakse (regime change operation 2015) and Gotabhaya Rajapakse (regime change operation 2022).


Can the Speaker Speak?

• The Speaker of the Parliament of the seemingly still & seemingly serene & seemingly Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka cannot speak. He is a brave from Galle, and is most eloquent in Sinhala. But he still cannot speak. Perhaps he is a diplomat. He says a foreign envoy (perhaps a gender fluid s/he) very undiplomatically offered him the post of President in July 2022, after he was informed by email from Singapore that the previous President had decided to step down – as demanded, not by the masses who elected that President but by those the masses had just rejected. (Ah Singapore! – what a refuge for the ‘rule of law’ this English entrepot for the piped opium of old Patna packed eastward ho to their other refuge in Hong Kong, has become – refuge of stolen bonds! refuge of disenfranchised bondage!).

     The Speaker says he was threatened by the very MPs & Party Leaders – who always speaking of democracy, last week tried to impeach him – to temporarily pick up the mace of Parliament (which he had heroically hidden, though as pointed out (by Sena Thoradeniya) ‘a broken arm of a chair’ would suffice if those usurpers who abrogate constitutions need decorum, to temporarily assume the post of President, while the US & India came up with a suitable stooge, more pliant than Ranil Wickremesinghe. Clerics of various cloths scolded the speaker in extra-religious language and threatened to burn parliament down, if he did not accede to their requests. As we surmise, he is a brave and most eloquent man, even as he refuses to elocute exactly which clerics, which party leaders, and which envoys, chose to have him sip from a poisoned chalice. The Speaker cannot speak. He also cannot name. He does say these renegades have or had planned an ‘Afghanistan’ and a ‘Libya’, once he chose to ‘act’ as President: for small groups were ready to slice up the country like an English cake factory, perhaps.

     And perchance it all goes back to that false dawn in 1948 when we exchanged, like ginger for chillies, yet again and again, the USA for England. Instead of arresting the English, and charging them with the criminality of colonialism, instead of jailing & hanging them, we have allowed their banks to continue and their politicians & diplomats return to lecture us while those bribed with money and relatives stashed in those countries stay meekly still, like rats on hearing snakes.

     Who are these English banks? Standard Chartered and Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, born out of chattel slavery, of colonial plunder. HSBC it may be recalled arose out of the English opium trade and the capture of China’s post-office customs, determining what and whom could enter and leave that country!



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