Turkey turns back toxic hulk

In the latest political spat over how to deal with end-of-life ships, Ankara has told the Netherlands it must 'detoxify' a hulk before it can be scrapped on Turkish soil.

In a case that mirrors the drawn-out story of the French aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau (see related story), Turkish Environment Minister Osman Pepe has told the Dutch Government the Ms Otapan, a ship which it legally owns, is not welcome until it has been stripped of asbestos and the other toxic materials that went into its construction such as TBT, sulphur cakes, heavy metals and PCBs.

The ship was turned away from Turkey last week following efforts from local and national NGOs to highlight the case, turning it into a political hot potato.

Turkey's newly formed Initiative Against Hazardous Shipbreaking teamed up with the NGO platform on Shipbreaking - an international coalition of environmental heavyweights - to pressure the Government into accepting that allowing the ship to dock would be in breach of international laws controlling the export of toxic waste.

Moving toxic waste across international borders is largely forbidden under the Basel Convention and the EU Waste Shipment Regulations and in this case the Dutch Government has created a rod for its own back, as it was a vociferous supporter of both pieces of legislation when they were introduced.

Turkey lacks the appropriate expertise and the right facilities for testing and managing hazardous waste, such as PCBs, in an environmentally sound manner as required under the Basel Convention and its Technical Guidelines for ship dismantling.

Dutch Environment Minister Pieter van Geel has also been obliged to publicly acknowledge his government provided wrong information to Turkey about the quantity of asbestos and other toxic materials in the ship.

"Turkey's official rejection of 'the Dutch Clemenceau' is a vindication for the dock and ship workers, the fisher folk, and the communities in Aliaga - the group which will be harmed by the toxins born by the Otapan, had it been dismantled in Turkey," said Arif Ali Cangi of the Turkish Initiative.

"It is not acceptable for the Dutch to pass its toxic burden to the people and environment of Turkey, particularly when Turkey can not properly manage these types of wastes."

Sam Bond



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