Greenpeace intercepts European ship attempting to illegally dump toxic waste in Turkey

Feature story - 4 May, 2002
Greenpeace activists have intercepted a European cargo vessel while it illegally attempted to enter a Turkish shipbreaking yard with dangerous toxic waste.

Greenpeace activists block ship containing toxic asbestos entering shipbreaking yard

The vessel "Sea Beirut" was towed from France to be scrapped at Aliaga, one of Turkey's notorious ship breaking yards with asbestos still on board.

Six Greenpeace activists climbed onto the ship and demanded that it return to France. The climbers hung a banner reading "Stop Toxic Ship Trade" on the vessel's side and displayed the toxic logo of a skull and cross bones to warn that the ship contains dangerous toxic waste.

The vessel was sold for scrap with asbestos on board by the French authorities in March 2002 to a German company MSK. By deciding to sell the ship for scrap, France is responsible for ensuring it is cleaned of hazardous materials before it is exported.

Despite France having strict laws governing the handling of asbestos, it failed to classify the vessel as hazardous waste. France also failed to request permission to export the vessel to Turkey and failed to notify the Turkish authorities of the asbestos. Under international and national regulations, Turkey has a right to refuse the toxic ship entry into the country and France is obliged to take it back.

"This toxic ship has been exported illegally and must be sent back to France. It is clearly unacceptable that France and other European countries are illegally dumping hazardous waste in Turkey, exposing its people and the environment to some of the most dangerous substances known to science," said Greenpeace campaigner Erdem Vardar. "This illegal trade will continue unless the EU ensures its shipping industries clean their vessels of hazardous materials before they're exported," he added.

After being contacted by Greenpeace during the action, Turkish Ministry of Environment officials in Izmir and the local governor of Aliaga, are now heading to the Aliaga shipbreaking yard to take samples. The officials are claiming that they cannot take action unless they have proof that there is asbestos on board the ship. Greenpeace has already provided some evidence that the ship has asbestos on board by means of a written declaration of the Dutch asbestos cleaning company Van Der Linden & Veldhuis.

Greenpeace is not against scrapping the vessels but wants to ensure that their export is not used as an excuse to dump toxic waste and demands that they are decontaminated before being exported.