The Clemenceau, a 27,000 tonne behemoth, left port in Toulon in December after years of legal wrangles and failed attempts to have it scrapped in Europe and Turkey.

The warship is now on its way to the huge Alang breaking yard in Gujarat and the journey is expected to take two months.

But India’s Supreme Court has said it will not be given permission to dock when it arrives, saying more toxic components must be removed before it will be accepted.

Greenpeace has been at the forefront of the fight to stop the Clemenceau’s export, claiming it still contains hundreds of tonnes of hazardous materials despite preliminary decontamination in France.

The French authorities say 45 tonnes of asbestos had to be left in the ship to keep it seaworthy but Greenpeace estimates it still contains up to 500 tonnes of the material along with other toxic waste.

The Indian authorities have asked that the ship does not come within 200 nautical miles of its coast while they deliberate whether to allow it into the country and try to get a clearer picture of exactly what the ship is made of.

They say a final decision on the fate of the ship can be expected in two weeks, well before its scheduled arrival in any case.

Greenpeace objects to India becoming the ship’s final resting place on a number of grounds.

First, it claims its international transit breaches the Basel Convention, an international treaty covering the disposal of toxic waste, although there is still some dispute as to whether decommissioned ships can legally be considered waste.

Second, it claims Alang is ill-equipped to deal with the ship in a manner that will protect both its workers and the environment. The pressure group published a report in December estimating the ship-breaking yards of Indo-China have claimed thousands of lives in recent years and there is no sign of this changing.

Finally, the group claims there is a moral obligation for a state to deal with its own waste, rather than off-loading the problem onto the developing world.

By Sam Bond

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