'Asbestos ship' finally headed for Turkey

A controversial chemical tanker that has spent most of the last nine years docked in the Netherlands awaiting decontamination is now on its way to Turkey for scrapping.

Environmentalists hailed it a "major victory" as the Otapan sailed from Amsterdam last Thursday night on its way to a shipbreaking yard near Izmir.

The ship has been berthed in Amsterdam since 1999 and was seized by the Dutch government when crew members were caught illegally removing asbestos from the ship in 2001.

While on its way back to Turkey in 2006, the Turkish government found it contained more asbestos than had been documented in the official export licence and refused to allow it to enter its territory.

The ship returned to the Netherlands and a Euro 4m clean-up was carried out which removed 76 tonnes of asbestos, and 335 tonnes of material that contained asbestos-contaminated materials.

Campaigners said the Otapan Principles will set a vital precedent and example for the hundreds of ships sent for scrapping each year.

The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, a coalition of organisations including Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network, had put pressure on the Dutch Ministry of Environment to decontaminate the ship.

The organisation's Turkish campaigner Erdem Vardar said: "While there was massive negligence on the part of the ship owners, and a lot of mistakes made by the Dutch government, the result is a precedent-setting success story that demonstrates that pre-cleaning and compliance with international law and guidelines can be achieved now, today."

The organisation said the shipowner - Mexico-based Basilisk - should ultimately pay the costs incurred by the Dutch government for the clean-up operation.

"It is shameful that in this day and age, shipowners continue to ignore their responsibility for their property at the end of its useful life," said Ingvild Jenssen, director of the NGO Platform.

The Dutch government has agreed a deal with Turkish shipyard Simsekler over the costs of berthing and insuring the ship, after issuing legal proceedings against the shipyard earlier this year.

Kate Martin



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