Khain Sea Waste Export Episode (KHAIN)
CASE NUMBER: 41
CASE MNEMONIC: KHAIN
CASE NAME: Khain Sea Episode
1. The Issue
Highly toxic material is being exported from the United States
due to fraudulent, illegal practices and loopholes in U.S. export
regulations. Much of the illegal trade practice includes
falsifying documents and failing to report hazardous waste exports.
Regulatory loopholes also allow some hazardous wastes to be shipped
as non-hazardous, which means that toxic materials such as
household trash, infectious wastes, raw sewage sludge, and
municipal incinerator ash are shipped without regard to the
regulations and notification program of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA). These "legal" exports, which are still
not adequately regulated by the U.S. EPA, have caused considerable
international political tension. In 1989, these tensions led to an
international conference, known as the Basel Convention to regulate
transboundary movements of hazardous waste. Though there are
numerous cases that helped to bring about the increase in global
awareness of the hazardous waste trade, none were more important
than the highly publicized two year journey of the Khain Sea and
its toxic cargo of municipal incinerator ash. In the end the
ship's cargo mysteriously vanished.
Transboundary movements of hazardous waste began in the early
1970s, when the United States and France began shipping it to
French speaking African countries. Gradually, other developed
European countries used exportation as a viable disposal option.
In the United States, industrial waste problems arose during the
1980s, along with the increased difficulty of solid waste disposal
for local jurisdictions.
As the price of depositing solid waste in landfills increased,
a popular option for some cities, such as Philadelphia, where the
notorious Khain Sea first set sail, was to burn the trash in large
incinerators. This greatly reduces its volume, creating a fine,
black, and sometimes toxic, ash which must be disposed of. For
years, cities deposited their incinerator ash in landfills located
throughout the United States. Joseph Paolino and Sons, a waste
handler for the City of Philadelphia, under contract to remove the
ash for $41.74 a ton, had been known to dump Philadelphia
incinerator ash in several states, such as Ohio and New Jersey.
However, the practice of placing ash in domestic landfills became
more difficult. Municipal incinerator ash began to pile up, just
as the garbage had before.
In the 1970s, several domestic toxic waste cases, such as Love
Canal and Times Beach, created strong public outcry over the lack
of government regulations to protect individuals from highly toxic
environmental dangers and a strengthening of U.S. regulations
regarding waste disposal. In 1984, the addition of regulations for
land-based disposal strengthened the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act (RCRA). The new RCRA regulations made it more costly
to maintain current landfills or to open up new ones.
The voyage of the Khain Sea began in June 1986, when Joseph
Paolino and Sons, waste handlers for Philadelphia, sub-contracted
with Amalgamated Shipping Corporation to transport 13,000 tons of
incinerator ash for $26.75 per ton to the Bahamas. In August 1986,
the Khain Sea, a Norwegian-owned ship flying the Liberian flag, set
sail with "non-hazardous, non-flammable, non-toxic incinerator ash"
for Ocean Cay in the Bahamas, where it was eventually prohibited
from unloading its cargo. Subsequently, the Khain Sea spent the
next two years at sea.
After being turned away from the Bahamas, the Khain Sea sought
to find an alternative dump site. Over the next year, the ship
sailed from Florida, in March 1987, where the Shippers Export
Declaration called the ash "general cargo", past Puerto Rico and
the Dutch Antilles, to Central America. During this year,
Amalgamated's unsuccessful attempts to unload the waste had
included negotiations with the Bahamas, Bermuda, Dominican
Republic, Honduras, Guinea-Bissau, Panama, and possibly other
In November, 1987, the Khain Sea arrived in Haiti, where
Amalgamated had arranged a deal with a company called Cultivators
of the West, operated by Antonio and Felix Paul, brothers of
Colonel Jean-Claude Paul, former leader of the notorious
paramilitary organization, the Tontons Macoutes. The Paul brothers
had secured an import permit to bring the ash into the country as
"fertilizer" at the port of Gonaives. After unloading nearly 3,000
tons of the toxic incinerator ash, the Haitian government demanded
the ship leave the country.
By late spring of 1988 and after 20 months at sea, the Khain
Sea returned to Delaware Bay with hopes of returning the cargo.
However, the ash-hauler's dock was destroyed by a two alarm fire
before the ship could unload the ash. The ship was piloted to a
anchorage eighty-five miles from Philadelphia where it was boarded
by the Coast Guard and the U.S. EPA in order to assess the
situation. To add to the Khain Sea's troubles, legal squabbles
broke out between Paolino and Sons and Amalgamated about the
Haitian problem and further payments.
In May 1988, the ship became an international fugitive when it
disobeyed all orders from the Coast Guard and steamed out to sea.
After avoiding U.S. Customs and the Coast Guard, the ship sailed
for Africa, where it attempted to dump its waste in Senegal and the
Cape Verde Islands. However, the Organization of African Unity had
already recommended to all African nations that they turn away any
shipments of waste.
The Khain Sea next sailed for Bijela on (the former)
Yugoslavia's Adriatic coast, where it was allowed to dock and
undergo repairs. After being renamed the Felicia, and having its
registry canceled by Liberia, Amalgamated sold the ship to Romo
Shipping, Inc., which obtained permission to fly the Honduran flag.
The ship then sailed through the Suez Canal and attempted to dock
in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. During this portion
of the ship's voyage, Romo renamed the ship Pelicano.
In November, 1988, the ship appeared in Singapore without its
cargo. No one involved would say what had happened. Greenpeace
believed that the ship dumped the ash into the Indian Ocean,
however, the captain assured reporters that the cargo was unloaded
in a port. After an extensive investigation by the U.S. Justice
Department, the mystery still remains unsolved.
3. Related Cases
The Bark is another infamous poison ship that received some
notoriety at the same time as the Khain Sea. This ship left
Philadelphia on its way to Panama with a load of incinerator ash
scheduled to be used in constructing a roadbed. Greenpeace exposed
the ships contents to the Panamanian government by providing EPA
studies showing that the ash contained lead, mercury, aluminum and
organic products that form dioxin.
After being turned away from Panama, the Bark found its way to
the West African nation of Guinea, where the ship became the first
of the known poison ships to unload its cargo. In this case, the
cargo was to be used in the construction of concrete-like bricks.
However, the deal ignited an international furor when it was
discovered that the dumping of the waste violated a two year ban
against all foreign wastes entering that country. The Bark's
Norwegian owner agreed to remove the waste only after the Guinean
government arrested the Norwegian consul-general for complicity in
the dumping (see JAPANPL case).
(1): Trade Product = WASTE
(2): Bio-geography = OCEAN
(3): Environmental Problem = Pollution Sea [POLS]
4. Author: Carl Scott
B. LEGAL Filters
5. Discourse and Status: DISagreement and COMPlete
First convened in 1972, the Inter-Governmental Conference on
the Convention on the Dumping of Wastes at Sea which established in
Article XII, that measures must be taken to protect the marine
environment against pollution caused by various hazardous
The publicity surrounding the Khain Sea and other toxic waste
ships did much to raise international awareness about the problems
of the hazardous waste trade. It could be argued that the Khain
Sea was one of the more instrumental cases in bringing about
international attempts to control the trade. The attempts
culminated with The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements
of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal which convened in 1989 (see
Though the United States government signed the Basel
Convention on March 3, 1990, the Convention has still not been
ratified by the United States Congress because current domestic
RCRA laws must be changed in order to be in compliance with the
Convention. It is likely that the RCRA laws in the United States
will undergo an extensive Congressional review sometime soon.
6. Forum and Scope: BASEL and MULTIlateral
7. Decision Breadth: 125
8. Legal Standing: TREATY
C. GEOGRAPHIC Filters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain : GLOBAL
b. Geographic Site : GLOBAL
c. Geographic Impact : USA
10. Sub-National Factors: NO
11. Type of Habitat: OCEAN
D. TRADE Filters
12. Type of Measure: Import Ban [IMBAN]
Import bans are the most used means for impacting trade flows.
13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect
14. Relation of Trade Measure to Resource Impact
a. Directly Related : YES WASTE
b. Indirectly Related : NO
c. Not Related : NO
d. Process Related : YES Pollution Sea [POLS]
15. Trade Product Identification: WASTE
The specific cargo was mostly incinerator ash. World exports
in 1986 were $42.5 to $66.4 million (a very rough estimate based on
contracted disposal costs and OECD country export figures of all
hazardous waste for 1980s). The leading exporters of hazardous
waste are Germany, the United States, Switzerland, and France.
Approximately 90 percent of hazardous waste is traded between the
16. Economic Data
U.S. industry output is estimated 265 million tons toxic waste
per year (this does not include materials that are not considered
toxic by the EPA, but may in fact be toxic material such as
incinerator ash). The total export volume is estimated at 127,000
tons for 1987.
As of May 1993, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates
1,317,000 are involved in what they call sanitary services. These
services include collection and disposal for sewage systems, refuse
system (including hazardous/toxic actions), and sanitary systems.
17. Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: LOW
18. Industry Sector: WASTE
19. Exporter and Importer: USA and MANY
E. ENVIRONMENT Filters
20. Environmental Problem Type: Pollution Sea [POLS]
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
The potential for affecting species is immense as toxic
substances leach into the aquifers. Another case concerning
incinerator ash and the possibility of Panama's lucrative shrimp
farming industry being contaminated by a shipment of incinerator
ash, which was to be used for a road bed. The Panamanian
government stopped the shipment when informed about the
22. Impact and Effect: LOW and PRODuct
23. Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 100s of years
24. Substitutes: Bio-degradable [BIODG] products
VI. OTHER Factors
25. Culture: NO
26. Trans-Border: YES
Waste and pollution problems easily cross national borders.
Witness the recent chemical spill in Switzerland that fouled the
Rhine as it travelled through a number of countries, in particular
27. Rights: YES
The possible spill of the ship's cargo near inhabited areas
would certainly pose a danger to human and animal health.
28. Relevant Literature
Brown, Jennifer. Environmental Threats: Perception, Analysis,
and Management. Belhaven Press, 1989.
Butler, Alison. "Environmental Protection and Free Trade: Are
They Mutually Exclusive?" Federal Reserve Bank of
St.Louis Review (May/June 1992).
Cairncross, Frances. Costing the Earth. Harvard Business School
Cusack, Marguerite M. "International Law and the Transboundary
Shipment of Hazardous Waste to the Third World: Will It
Make a Difference?" American University Journal of
International Law and Policy (Volume 5: 393, 1990).
Dowling, Michael. "Defining and Classifying Hazardous Waste",
Environment (April 1985).
Engel, J. Ronald and Engel, Joan Gibb. Ethics of Environment and
Development. The University of Arizona Press, 1990.
French, Hilary F. "Reconciling Trade and the Environment."
State of the World 1993. W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
Glass, David J. "Biological Treatment of Hazardous Wastes."
Environment (November 1991).
Greenpeace. Waste Trade Update, various issues.
Hackett, David P. "An Assessment of the Basel Convention on the
Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes
and Their Disposal." American University Journal of
International Law and Policy 5 (1990): 291.
Hilz, Christoph and John R. Ehrenfeld. "Transboundary Movements
of Hazardous Wastes: A Comparative Analysis of Policy
Options to Control the International Waste Trade."
International Environmental Affairs (Fall 1991).
Huntoon, Barbara D. "Emerging Controls on Transfers of Hazardous
Waste to Developing Countries." Law and Policy in
International Business 21 (1989).
Kunreuther, Howard and Ruth Patrick. "Managing the Risks of
Hazardous Waste." Environment (April 1991).
Levy, Marc A., Peter M. Haas and Robert O. Keohane.
"Institutions for the Earth: Promoting International
Environmental Protection," Environment (May 1992).
Lief, Louise, Barnes, John, and Zulueta, Tana. "Dirty Job, Sweet
Profits." U.S. News and World Report (November 21,
Martin, Alice Tepper; Ross, Steven S.; and the Council on Economic
Priorities. Hazardous Waste Management; Reducing the
Risk, Island Press, 1986.
Millman, Joel. "Exporting Hazardous Waste." Technology Review
(April 6, 1989).
Moyers, Bill. Global Dumping Ground: The International Traffic
in Hazardous Waste. Seven Locks Press, 1990.
Murphy, Sean D. "The Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste."
Environment (March 1993).
Nitze, William A. "Improving U.S. Interagency Coordination of
International Environmental Policy Development."
Environment (May 1991).
OECD/OCDE. "Production and Movement of Hazardous and Special
Waste, Selected Countries, late 1980s." OECD
Environmental Data 1991, Organization of Economic
Cooperation and Development (1991).2
Plofchan, Thomas K. "Recognizing and Countervailing
Environmental Subsidies." The International Lawyer (Fall
Pope, Carl. "Borderline Issues." Sierra (September/October
Postel, Sandra. "Defusing the Toxics Threat: Controlling
Pesticides and Industrial Waste." World Watch Paper 79
Speth, James G. "Coming to Terms: Toward a North South Compact
for the Environment." Environment (June 1990).
Stavins, Robert N. and Bradley W. Whitehead. "Dealing with
Pollution", Environment (September 1992).
Uva, Mary Deery and Jane Bloom. "Exporting Pollution: The
International Hazardous Waste Trade." Environment (June
Wright, J. Ward. Managing Hazardous Wastes: A Programmatic
Approach. Center for the Environment and Natural
Resources State Government Research Institute, The
Council of State Governments; Lexington, Kentucky 1986.
Yates, Michael, Bernd Kordes and Ian Austin. "Hazardous Waste
Management: The New Global Opportunity." Presented at
FIDIC, Tokyo, Japan (1991).
Go to Super Page