Greenpeace stops Clemenceau leaving European territory

Press release - 12 January, 2006
Greenpeace activists today intercepted and boarded the French aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, raising the stakes in the international row over the decommissioning of the Clemenceau, which has been sent to India for decommissioning despite widespread outrage at the high levels of asbestos and other hazardous materials it contains.

Greenpeace activists board the carrier ship Clemenceau 50 nautical miles off the coast of Egypt hanging a banner that reads 'Asbestos carrier stay out of India' .Greenpeace is protesting against the decommission of the Clemenceau, which has been sent to India for decommissioning despite widespread outrage at the high levels of asbestos and other hazardous materials it contains.

At 07:20hrs this morning, two activists boarded the carrier 50nautical miles from the coast of Egypt in international waters. Theyare currently on one of the ship's masts with banners declaring:"asbestos carrier: stay out of India".

The Indian Supreme Court Monitoring Committee has alreadyacknowledged that the arrival of the Clemenceau in India would be aviolation of the Basel Convention, the international treaty preventingthe trade in hazardous materials. 

Greenpeace is now calling on Egypt to refuse permission for theClemenceau to enter the Suez Canal and progress further towards itsfinal destination of Alang, India.

The Clemenceau has been thesubject of intense international debate, as the French Governmentrefuses to reconsider its decision to send the military aircraftcarrier to India without prior decontamination. The ship had alreadybeen refused entry into Greece, when military personnel had to boardthe ship in the Mediterranean to return it to France.

Greenpeace activists demonstrated against the ship's departurefrom France, with non-violent protests in simultaneously in France andIndia.

"The Clemenceau presents an immediate danger to the Indianenvironment and to the workers at the Alang ship-breaking yard," saidJacob Hartmann, Greenpeace campaigner on board the vessel that haltedthe Clemenceau's progress today. "There is more than sufficientevidence to establish that the French Government has failed todecontaminate the ship, even to the standards they agreed to, let aloneto international standards. We simply cannot allow the ship to get anycloser to its destination. India has spoken, and they do not want thisship!"

In India, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee proclaimed on 7January that importing the Clemenceau to India would be considered aserious violation of the Basel Convention (1), after hearing thetestimony of asbestos removal experts from officials from Technopure:the company originally contracted by the French Government todecontaminate the ship, who stated that at least 500 tonnes of asbestosstill remain onboard. (2)

Yesterday, in France, Greenpeace and the Ban Asbestos Networkstarted court proceedings to remove the confidentiality clause from thecontract on asbestos removal from the Clemenceau, so that detailsregarding toxic substances onboard may be revealed. The Court isexpected to rule today.

"France has repeatedly tried to evade its responsibilityregarding the Clemenceau," said Jim Puckett of the Basel ActionNetwork. "Their standards for handling asbestos are amongst the highestin the world. But instead of investing in safe removal and disposal ofthe asbestos on the Clemenceau, they are trying to dupe the IndianGovernment, and dump their toxic wastes onto the poorest of the poor ofthe world. This is absolutely reprehensible; certainly not the kind ofattitude one would expect of a supposedly civilised nation!"

Greenpeace is demanding that:

1. The French Government agrees to take back the Clemenceau and decontaminate it thoroughly before allowing it to leave Europe

2.The Indian Government refuses to allow the Clemenceau permission toarrive in India as long as the ship is not thoroughly decontaminated.

3.The Egyptian Government upholds its commitment to the Basel Convention,and refuses permission for the Clemenceau to transit through Egypt orto enter the Suez Canal and head further towards India until the Baselobligations are fulfilled (3)

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that usesnon-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmentalproblems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peacefulfuture.

Other contacts: Jacob Hartmann, Greenpeace Nordic, (mobile) +4528109020Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, +1 206 652 5555Martin Besieux in Egypt, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner + 32 96161585Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace India Toxics Campaigner, +91 98 455 35 414Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +44 7801 212 960Vivek Sharma, Greenpeace India Communications, +91 934 378 8424

VVPR info: Photos available from Franca Michienzi, Photo Desk +31 653 819 255Video available from Michael Nagasaka, Video Desk +31 646 166 309

Notes: 1. This means that at least 80% of the asbestos amount is still onboard. France claims that 115 tonnes of asbestos has been removed. Technopure claims that at least 500 tonnes is still onboard. This means that at least 615 tonnes of asbestos were onboard the Clemenceau originally.2. As per decision VII/26 taken at the COP7 meeting of the Basel Convention, end-of-life ships are considered 'waste' and it is irrelevant that the Clemenceau is a 'war ship.3. Egypt has already officially said that it would uphold the Basel convention for ships heading for breaking yards going through the canal. Amongst other things, Egypt has stated that prior notification procedures should be implemented when such ships transit through the Suez Canal. Failing compliance with those requirements, Egypt - as a party to the convention - shall consider such a crossing an illegal one in line with the Basel convention provisions.

Exp. contact date: 2006-01-20 00:00:00