NGO warns of new toxic warship scandal

Pollution activists are moving to block the export of a former hospital ship in the US which they claim will likely be taken to Asian breaking yards ill-equipped to deal with the toxic compounds it contains.

Sanctuary, The vintage World War II US Navy ship, was auctioned off in August, but the Basel Action Network, a campaigning organisation dedicated to stopping the illegal export of toxics, claims that by law the hazardous materials must be removed before the ship can leave the USA.

The group says the ship contains asbestos which would threaten the health of workers in the breaking yards of India or Bangladesh, its likely destination, and that there is a high probability it also contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been found in cables, flooring panels and paint of ships built in the same period as the Sanctuary.

It is illegal to export PCBs under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The US Coast Guard says it has been informed by the owner that the ship will be taken to Greece, not Asia, but BAN has urged caution as once it is out of American waters the captain will be free to sail wherever he wishes.

Ship Loaded with Toxic PCBs and Asbestos Could “Slip Away in the Night”

In 2003, BAN and the Sierra Club sued the EPA and the US Maritime Administration to stop the export of 13 PCB-laden vessels from the James River ghost fleet to the UK.

As a result of that lawsuit, MARAD agreed to utilize the rulemaking process of TSCA should a waiver be needed for future export. No ex-naval vessels have been exported since that time.

The French government has also fallen foul of anti-toxic campaigners, when last year its attempts to scrap its former aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, captured headlines.

France was eventually forced to take the ship back for domestic dismantling.

Sam Bond

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