Greenpeace calls on France not to scrap deadly Clemenceau in India

Press release - 12 December, 2005
Four Greenpeace climbers today successfully climbed to top of the loading crane at the Port of Toulon, where the Clemenceau, a French Navy air carrier is berthed and preparing to depart to India where it will be finally dismantled. Three other activists are currently on the mast of the ship and have unfurled banners that say: “Asbestos carrier, Stay out of India!” An eighth activist circled the ship on a motorised paraglider flying a banner that read in French: Asbestos carrier: not here, not anywhere. Three other activists on an inflatable were stopped by local authorities.

Greenpeace activists display banners demonstrating against the departure of former French aircraft carrier Clemenceau at the Port of Toulon. The decommissioned vessel is bound for India where it will be finally dismantled in spite of containing huge quantities of highly toxic asbestos. The banners read 'ASBESTOS CARRIER _ STAY OUT OF INDIA'

The Clemenceau may be one of the largest ships to be sent for scrap but every year a vast decrepit armada bearing a dangerous cargo of toxic substances including asbestos, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and heavy metals, ends up in Asian ship breaking yards (Bangladesh, India, China and Pakistan) where they are cut up in the crudest of fashions taking a huge toll on human health and the local environment.

"The sorry story of the Clemenceau is the story of ship breaking in general, a tragic case of pass the toxic parcel," said Pascal Husting, Executive director of Greenpeace France.  "After years of attempts to find a cheap way of dumping the Clemenceau and its load of at least 130 tonnes of deadly asbestos and other toxics, once again the French Government tries to send it for breaking in the unregulated yards of India. This is an unacceptable practice of waste dumping. "(1)

End of life ships should be treated like any other toxic material under the internationally recognised Basel Convention which bans the dumping of such waste by OECD countries in non-OECD countries. However, the shipping industry and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), fearing that ships would become subject to a strict environmental justice regime, claim that the Basel Convention has no competence over ships for scrap.

"Dumping this asbestos carrier on India or any other Asian ship breaking yard not equipped to deal with toxic ships is an unofficial declaration of war against the environment and against unprotected, vulnerable and poor workers. This ship has been rejected for export to Greece and Turkey before. Surely, it should also stay out of India. ," said Ramapati Kumar of Greenpeace India.

Today, at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, representatives of three United Nations bodies, IMO, the Basel Convention and the International Labour Organisations (ILO), will begin a three-day meeting to discuss ways to bring the ship breaking industry under control. The IMO has resisted any attempt to loosen its grip on all ship related regulation and bring the shipping industry under the control of the Basel Convention. Earlier this month the IMO announced plans to develop a new treaty for ship scrapping. However, it will not come into effect for at least another five years and is likely to place the burden of responsibility for hazardous waste on poor workers at the breaking yards in Asia and not on the ship owners. (2)

"Not all of the casualties of this toxic trade are unknown," said Marietta Harjono of Greenpeace International, in Geneva at the launch of a new report produced jointly by Greenpeace and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on ship breaking. The report follows the story of 110 workers who have died during accidents in ship breaking yards of India and Bangladesh (3)

"While the talking continues so does the dying," said Harjono. "This week discussions must conclude-at a minimum-that until the IMO provides new regulations for ship breaking that the shipping industry should adhere to the Basel Convention and international human rights conventions." (5)

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to drive solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.  

Other contacts: Contact informationPascal Husting, Greenpeace France, +33673892319Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace India, +919845535414Jacob Hartmann, Greenpeace International, +4528109020Marietta Harjono, Greenpeace International in Geneva, +31615007411Jacek Winiarski, Greenpeace International Communications, +48504274080

VVPR info: Video available from Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace Video Desk + 31646166309Photos available from John Novis, Greenpeace Photo Desk +

Notes: Notes to Editors(1) The French have attempted to be rid of the Clemenceau since 1997 when it was decommissioned. There have been plans to make it an artificial reef, scrap it in Turkey and dismantled it in Italy, among others.(2) IMO Assembly - 24th session: 21 November - 2 December 2005. Greenpeace and others denounced the new IMO instrument which as currently envisaged will place the burden of hazardous waste on developing countries, and for providing provisions for being far weaker than the existing Basel Convention. The obligations of the 1989 Basel Convention and its 1995 Basel Ban Amendment prevents export of the waste vessel if they are not decontaminated and stripped of toxic substances such as asbestos and PCBs by the ship owners or exporting states. The Basel Convention places responsibility on industry and rich nations to prevent and even prohibit the export of hazardous wastes to developing countries, the new IMO legal instrument will place almost all responsibility on the ship breaking countries and their facilities.(3) “END OF LIFE SHIPS - the human cost of breaking ships”, December 2005. FIDH/Greenpeace (in cooperation with Young Power in Social Action, YPSA, in Bangladesh). Web link. As the report went to print, on December 3rd, three more people lost their lives in the Sagorika ship breaking yard in Bangladesh: Rofiqul Islam (33), Md Siddique (40) and Abul Kalam (35). All died of suffocation when they inhaled carbon monoxide in the lower deck of a bulk carrier called MV Star. According to local police and other sources the Star should have been made gas free for hot works before it was sent to Bangladesh for breaking.(4) Later today, some 200 people, from ship breaking workers, students, doctors, teachers, civilians to NGOs will gather the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh commemorate the workers in Bangladesh who lost their lives due to ship breaking activities. Organised by Young Power in Social Action, this funeral event will include the formation of a human chain and hold a three-minute silence when candles will be lit and floated out to sea in memory of the dead.(5) Today, in Geneva, Greenpeace, FIDH and YPSA will present a joint declaration signed by 20 international and national human rights, environmental and health NGOs and trade unions to representatives of the IMO, the ILO and the Basel Convention demanding immediate measures to prevent further deaths and pollution (for joint declaration go to: