French Asbestos carrier blocked

Clemenceau… The ship that died. But didn’t stop killing.

Feature story - 12 January, 2006
France thinks it can get away with dumping a warship containing hundreds of tonnes of toxic materials like asbestos, PCBs, lead and mercury in India. We say that's illegal toxic dumping -- so we have boarded the warship to prevent it getting to India.

Activists board the Clemenceau for the second time in a month as a millitary helicopter buzzes overhead. The activists are protesting France dumping the toxic ship in India.

French authorities seem determined to see unprotected workers scrap theaircraft carrier, Clemenceau and allow poor workers to sortthe toxic waste by hand.

We are just as determined to stop them.

Two activists have boarded the ship during its transit through theMediterranean towards India. One of them, Sebastian, spent 24 hours on the mast of the Clemenceau one month agotrying to prevent it leaving France. Last time he had only one apple toeat and a banner to sleep in but he's back again, prepared to prevent Francegetting away with dumping the ship.

Victory! Update 15 Feb: French President Chirac has announced a dramatic recall of theasbestos-laden warship Clemenceau == it will be turning around andgoing back to France. Our actions, emails to Chirac and an embarrassinginternational scandal left France with little choice but to abandon themisguided attempt to dump its own toxic mess on India.

Hovering above Sebastianis a French military helicopter. Navy personnel have boarded theship, no doubt to ensure it makes it to an Indian shipbreakingyard so a poor worker can hand sort France's deadly asbestos.

This is not the first time France has tried to dump the toxic asbestoscarrier on someone else, nor the first time its been boarded to send itback to France. In 2003 France tried to send it for scrapping inBangladesh, via Greece. But the Greek military boarded the ship in theMediterranean and forced it to return to France. View the history of the ship nobody wants.

France wants to send the ship to be scrapped on the beaches of Alang, India. Check out where France thinks its OK to send its toxic waste:

India doesn't want it either

Since our action in France last month, the story has been making headlines in India.Our activists at the French embassy in Delhi were immediatelyarrested in a failed attempt to silence the growing protests in India.On January 7, the Indian Supreme Court issued an interim rulingordering the ship to stay out of Indian waters due to the hundreds oftonnes of asbestos onboard. But despite this, the Clemenceau is stillheading straight for India.

Under an international law, calledthe Basel convention, France is not allowed to dump toxic waste in adeveloping country like India. But France is exploiting a loophole thatallows the ship not to be called 'waste' until it arrives.

Take thewaste out of the ship and put it in barrels back on the ship - that'sillegal hazardous waste transport, leave it in the structure of theship and you have a excuse to let the ship poison and kill people indeveloping countries.

It's a garbage argument. It's bad enough that theshipping industry uses it to justify sending toxic garbage to India,  but for a country like France to use it isindefensible.

What is the solution?

The Clemenceau may be one of the largest ships to be sent for scrap butevery year a vast decrepit armada bearing a dangerous cargo of toxicsubstances, asbestos, PCBs and heavy metals, ends up in ship breakingyards in Bangladesh, India, China and Pakistan, where they are cut upin the crudest of fashions, taking a huge toll on human health and thelocal environment.

Asian ship breaking yards are perfect forthe shipping industry. They can make a quick profit by dumping oldships that are too expensive to scrap in developed countries due to thehazardous materials in them. Such problems evaporate when environmentalrule enforcement is lax and workers rights practically non-existent. Adream come true for unscrupulous shipping industry but a nightmare forthe environment and workers safety.

We are campaigning to end this nightmare. The solution is simple. Developed countries should decontaminate old ships before they are sent for scrapping.

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