View of ship breaking yard where hazardous materials onboard ships cause pollution and endanger workers.
The French Government has been sending old ships to Turkey for
scrapping for years. It costs less to have the ships scrapped in a
country where weak laws allow the toxic waste onboard to pollute
the environment, and lax safety regulations endanger workers'
health. However, last year Turkey banned the import of these toxic
ships for scrap from France. Now forced to do what it should have
been doing all along - cleaning hazardous materials from ships
before sending them for scrapping - the French authorities have
discovered that if there is profit to be made, rules soon fall by
The aircraft carrier Clemençeau was sold for scrapping to a
buyer who first agreed to decontaminate the ship in Spain. To
remove the large amounts of toxic wastes such as asbestos and PCB,
the buyers declared that they would first take the vessel to the
port of Gijon in northern Spain for decontamination. The vessel
would then be scrapped in Bilbao, Spain.
The ship left the port of Toulon on 13 October 2003. However, it
didn't head for Spain. Instead, the new owners apparently decided
to skip the promised clean up, and make a quicker buck by selling
the aircraft carrier direct to a Turkish scrap yard.
Not wanting to be exposed to the sort of bad publicity that
surrounded a similar case, the
"Sea Beirut," the French authorities decided to take action.
Because of the lack of the proper clearance for export, the French
military boarded the former French military ship off the island of
Sicily to halt its progress to Turkey.
Prompt action prevented the new ship owners from getting away
with it. But this story is the exception -- not the rule.
"It seems like French authorities have learned from the Sea
Beirut case, where Turkish authorities and court confirmed that it
is illegal to send toxic ships for scrap to Turkey without being
decontaminated first. We appreciate the action taken by the French
authorities but the French toxic ship Sea Beirut is still lying at
Aliaga shipbreaking yards waiting to be taken back to France. This
illegal trade will continue unless the shipping industry is
enforced to clean their vessels of hazardous materials before they
are exported" said our campaigner in Turkey, Erdem Vadar.
Around 600 ships are being scrapped annually, up to 100 of them
in Turkey. More than half come from western European shipping
companies. The costs for dismantling toxic ships in Turkey and
other developing countries are lower than in western Europe because
shipbreaking yards such as Aliaga put no investment into meeting
health or environmental regulations.
We are campaigning for international law to prevent rich ship
owners from dumping toxic ships on poorer countries. We believe all
ships must be cleaned before export for scrapping.
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