UK government accused of hypocrisy as it tries to fob off its own 'ghost ships'

In the increasingly stormy debate on ship breaking, the UK government has this week been accused of hypocrisy. Greenpeace has accused the government of operating double standards over its recent blocking of ex-US navy ships for breakage in the UK whilst simultaneously planning the export of their own ex-navy ships, which contain hazardous waste.

As the US Canisteo settles in to temporary residence at Hartlepool, the relatively calm relationship between government and environmentalists on the issue of ship scrapping was disturbed by preparations for the UK's former Intrepid to depart Portsmouth.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed to edie that it has received bids from European and International countries, including Turkey, for the scrapping contract of the former Intrepid. The UK government and the Environment Agency have recently preventing shipbreaker Able UK from starting dismantling work on ex-US warships, because insufficient environmental legislation was in place (see related story).

Greenpeace has claimed a reputable source from the Disposal Service Authority, a branch of the MOD, which organises the sales of navy vessels for scrapping, has confirmed that they are in negotiations with a Turkish scrapping firm for the Intrepid contract.

Although Turkey is a member of the Organisation for the Economic Cooperative Development (OECD), which would permit it to receive hazardous waste from another OECD country under the Basle Convention, Turkish national law prevents such importation of hazardous waste.

Former Intrepid contains 40 tonnes of asbestos as well as PCBs and lead.

Blake Lee-Harwood, Campaigns Director for Greenpeace said: "The Government and the Environment Agency are behaving like complete hypocrites - taking urgent action to stop foreign ships being broken in the UK while simultaneously allowing the Ministry of Defence to export contaminated ships to countries with much lower environmental standards."

However, an Environment Agency spokesperson told edie that they had not yet received any notification from the MOD on contract confirmation. Under UK regulations the EA, as the competent authority would have to give their assent for any exportation of this kind to leave the UK.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace told edie they believe all toxic waste harbouring ships should remain the UK for scrapping, or else be cleaned up before exportation. "The British Government has complete control over where these ships go, they should be ensuring they stay in the UK for scrapping and not be transported to places where the working conditions and environmental regulations are poor," he said.

The Ministry of Defence has told edie that any transfer of former navy vessels will be done in compliance with all UK and European regulations.


hazardous waste


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