French War Ship Headed to India Despite Protests

Feature story - February 1, 2005
BOMBAY, India — The Clemenceau, a 33,000-tonne French military warship is headed to Alang, Gujarat for ship breaking. It is expected to arrive there in the first quarter of 2005. This vessel is known to contain hazardous chemicals, because of which it has already been denied entry in many ship-breaking yards in Greece, Turkey etc.

The French warship, Clemenceau.

Greenpeace has called on Indian authorities to take urgent action to stop the illegal import of the toxic behemoth 'Clemenceau,' and to ensure that the import of this ship will not contravene the Supreme Court order on ship recycling or the Basel convention on trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste. This is the second reminder that Greenpeace has sent to the concerned Indian Ministries and authorities.

Clemenceau has been ridden with controversy right from the day she was decommissioned in 1997 after 35 years of service; the 33,000-tonne ship was sold to a Spanish company, which undertook to tow it to the port of Gijon in northern Spain to be demolished.

French authorities had declared that all toxic wastes contained in the ship - like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributylin (TBT) and approximately 210 tonnes of Asbestos, amongst others - would be decontaminated before the ship was recycled. But surprisingly on leaving its Mediterranean base at Toulon, the carrier was seen heading not towards the straits of Gibraltar -- and thus to Spain's Atlantic coast -- but eastwards towards Turkey. A clause in the contract stipulated that the demolition had to take place in Europe and not in Turkey, in keeping with European Conventions on the issue of Asbestos removal.

Faced with this flagrant violation of the commitments made by the company, the French government cancelled the contract to the Spanish company. Thereafter the French Government offered the ship to a German firm, which planned to break it up in the Greek port of Piraeus, and with negotiations underway between the two companies the Clemenceau was stranded at anchor off the Sicilian coast.

In November 2003, Turkey and Greece refused to allow Clemenceau to enter their waters until it had been decontaminated. Both governments were aware that the aircraft carrier would have vast quantities of toxics materials such as PCBs,, TBT, Asbestos, and in all probability, radioactive waste on board. The French authorities had committed to decontaminating the ship in Spain, but for inexplicable reasons the ship never reached Spain, following which both Turkey and Greece refused to allow the ship to be scrapped at their countries.

The EU Waste Shipment Regulation 259/93 (EU Waste Regulation) obligates the Member States, France in this particular case, to ensure that the notification procedure is followed; to ensure that there is consent in writing; to ensure that the shipment of waste is reduced to the minimum, consistent with environmentally sound and efficient management of such wastes; not to allow the export of hazardous or other wastes if the Member State has reason to believe that the wastes in question will not be managed in an Environmentally Sound Management manner; and if illegally shipped, to take back the waste.

The requirement of written prior consent based on adequate information (Prior Informed Consent or Notification) and the requirement that hazardous wastes to be exported are subject to Environmental Sound Management are two important legal obligations of the Basel Convention to be respected in the case of the export of the "Clemenceau" to France.

For India the orders of the Indian Supreme Court clearly indicate that ships need to be free of hazardous substances before they come onshore for ship-breaking. In addition the Court orders place the responsibility for removing the hazardous waste on the ship owner. Hence any ship that is sent for breaking must be decontaminated.

Greenpeace India has been protesting against the deemed illegal import of the Clemenceau and states that it is imperative that the government take the following steps:

- Immediately ask France to clarify whether all relevant obligations and procedures of the international regulation on ship recycling (in particular the EU WS Regulation) have been complied with, including obtainment of "non objection certificate from the Indian Ministry(s) of Defense and Environment and Forest."

- Check as a matter of urgency and priority full compliance with the requirements under the orders of the Indian Supreme Court, in particular the need for decontamination.

- Inform the Customs department in Bhavnagar and in Mumbai that they cannot allow the import of such ship if they fail to provide "No objection Certificate from Government of India".

For further information, please contact:


Greenpeace Campaigner, +919845535414

, Greenpeace Media Officer, 98108 50092