Indian authorities brand 'Clemenceau' illegal transport

Greenpeace demands ship's return to France

Press release - 6 January, 2006
Today the Indian Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) branded the French naval aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, which is being towed to India for scrapping, as an illegal transport due to the hazardous materials, including 500 tonnes of asbestos, on board. Greenpeace demanded that the French Government take back its ship and for India formally reject its entry into Indian Territory.

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 ship left France on December 31, 2005, under a huge cloud of controversy after Greenpeace and local NGOs attempted to stop the journey through protest and the French courts. At that time the SCMC said they had no objection to the ship's scrapping in India, subject to certain conditions, including an independent audit to confirm that France had decontaminated the ship.

Since the French Government failed to fulfil these conditions, the Indian authority issued a statement this afternoon declaring that the Basel Convention was being violated and that  French authorities had not been honest in regard to the potential hazards on board and that the ship must not enter India's Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) (1).

"The French Government must now accept that the concerns around the Clemenceau are real and valid. India has spoken - the ship and its lethal load are not welcome. The Clemenceau is being towed as we speak, it must stop its journey immediately and be returned to France," said Pascal Husting, Executive Director of Greenpeace France. "The Indian Government must withdraw its permission and publicly reject this ship's entry into India."

Officials from Technopure, the company contracted by the French Government to decontaminating the ship before it was dispatched to India, has gone on public record to confirm that the Clemenceau contains as much as 500 tonnes of asbestos, a huge increase on the 45 to 50 tonnes that the French Government has admitted to. The company ended its contract with the French Government and disclosed this information on moral grounds, despite the confidentiality clause they were bound to. Technopure officials declared that France never intended to undertake more than a superficial clean-up of visible toxic substances on board the Clemenceau and deliberately chose the cheapest option they could get away with, despite the knowledge that the wastes on board would result in disease and death for Indian workers and devastation for the Indian environment.

"The Clemenceau is symbolic of the wider global issue of developed countries dumping waste they consider too toxic to deal with at home onto developing countries. Governments must not be allowed to think that their responsibilities end when these hazardous wastes leave their shores," said Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace India. "Governments must be stopped from playing 'Pass the toxic parcel'."

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.

Other contacts: Pascal Husting, Executive Director, Greenpeace France, +33 673 892 319Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +91 98 455 35 414Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +44 7801 212 960Namrata Chowdhary, Greenpeace India Communications, +91 98 10 85 00 92Vivek Sharma, Greenpeace India Communications, +91 93 43 788 424

VVPR info: Photographs and raw footage of the Clemenceau being towed are available Greenpeace International Photo Desk, +31 653 819 255Greenpeace International Video Desk, + 31 653 504 721

Notes: (1) France is a signatory to the Basel Convention, which prohibits the transfer of wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries

Exp. contact date: 2006-02-20 00:00:00