SENATE PASSAGE of a pilot program to scrap old Navy ships safely for workers and the environment is half the battle. Now the House of Representatives must agree, which is not assured.
The House did not include the ship-scrapping program in its version of the defense authorization bill. The Senate proposal would ban the export of old Navy and Maritime Administration ships to Third World entrepreneurs, who rip them up on the beaches with untrained and poorly paid workers for maximum profit. Its fate will be hammered out in a House-Senate conference committee.
This program is a thoughtful response to the Pulitzer-Prize-winning expose of harmful shipbreaking practices by Sun reporters Gary Cohn and Will Englund. Maryland Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, along with Ohio Sen. John Glenn, all Democrats, have led the crusade.
To date there is less zeal for reform in the House. Maryland 1st District Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican, and California Rep. George Miller, a Democrat, have taken the lead. What's needed to end this scandal of environmental pollution and worker deaths and injuries is bipartisan, bicameral cooperation.
The proposed ship-scrapping plan might cost a little more than poisoning the oceans and maiming workers. It would provide solid data for two years on how much more, after which the secretary of the Navy would report to Congress on a future strategy.
This is a sensible and fiscally responsible antidote to environmental and industrial irresponsibility.
Pub Date: 6/30/98