India welcomes asbestos ship

The 'toxic' ship Blue Lady with its estimated 900 tonnes of asbestos will be dismantled in India, after the country's Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision in an unexpected turn of events.

The ship had been turned away just last month (see related story), but now the Supreme Court decided to allow the Blue Lady into India’s infamous Alang shipyard after all.

The decision comes weeks after the Clemenceau aircraft carrier was towed back to France among protests over the exportation of the West’s toxic problems to the developing world from Indian authorities and the international environmental movement.

The Blue Lady was constructed in the 1950s, when asbestos was all the rage in ship-building as a non-flammable, light material. Consequently, it contains around 900 tonnes of asbestos, according to environmental organisations.

Back in France, the amount of asbestos contained in the ex-Clemenceau – now known as the Q790 – is still disputed. Environmentalists estimate the ship to contain somewhere between 500 and 1000 tonnes of asbestos, while the French Ministry of Defence puts the number at 45 tonnes.

As it awaits its fate at the French port of Brest, the Clemenceau will undergo an expert analysis which should put an end to the dispute.

The analysis should also lay the foundations for a contract for cleaning up and dismantling the ship. This is expected to be finalised in 2007, with the ship scheduled to be dismantled over the course of 2008.

Goska Romanowicz

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