A four-year-old scandal involving the MV Ulla, a vessel carrying hazardous waste from Spain, finally came to a head on Monday outside the Turkish port of Iskenderun, where the vessel sank taking 2000 tons of hazardous waste with it.
The MV Ulla sank, burying 2000 tons of toxic waste into the sea.
According to Turkish authorities, the fly ash, which came from
the burning of coal in three power plants in the North of Spain,
seeped into the sea when the MV Ulla started sinking on 6
September. The vessel had been docked in Turkey for over four years
after the Turkish authorities had refused the hazardous cargo to be
off-loaded on its shores.
This environmental fiasco started back in 1999 when 3,488 tons
of hazardous fly ash was loaded onto the MV Ulla in Spain. The
hazardous waste was to be sent to the Spanish company S.A. P/C De
Dragados in Algeria. But following Algeria's rejection of the
hazardous cargo, the ship mysteriously ended up in Turkey. Dragados
claimed that the cargo was damaged as a result of bad loading in
The waste contained chromium VI - a highly toxic heavy metal -
environmentally hazardous as well as dangerous for humans. The
responsibility for its return lay with the Spanish government,
since the ship loaded its hazardous waste in Spain. However neither
the Turkish nor the Spanish authorities bothered taking any
precautions to contain the environmental hazard.
the entry of such hazardous waste into Turkey is banned under both
national and international legislation (Basel Convention), the
Turkish government had been urging the Spanish government to take
back the ship. In January 2002 they again urged the Spanish
government and the Basel Secretariat to resolve this problem. It
seems that no one wanted to take responsability for this
environmental time bomb.
Now that the ship has sunk, the Basel Convention does not
provide liability provision for cleaning up the mess. However, the
Spanish government are reportedly offering to help in the clean-up
All of this seems too little too late.
"It's good to know that Spain is willing to help, but both
countries should have acted way too late on this matter. Four years
is too much time to spend on a clear case of waste trade scandal.
This wreck and damage at the bottom of the blue Mediterranean sea
would have been avoided if Spain and Turkey has acted on time",
said Banu Dockmecibasi, Greenpeace Turkey Campaigner.