The Clemenceau Case: Potential Hazardous Material Assessment

Publication - 7 February, 2006
A report which inventories the potentially hazardous materials likely to be onboard the French decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau.

The toxic warship Clemenceau returns to France , setting a new precedent for developed countries to take action against dumping their toxic and other waste in developing countries

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Executive summary:

In the context of the ongoing deliberations of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee of India regarding the case of the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau, en route from France, there has been an urgent need for independent expert scrutiny of the technical details and data relating specifically to the presence of hazardous materials onboard the vessel.  

To assist in this purpose, Greenpeace International commissioned a technical assessment from Mr Aage Bjorn Andersen, an expert in the field of hazardous material surveys on marine vessels and who was closely involved in the development of the ILO, Basel Convention and IMO guidelines on ship recycling. The assessment is based on information available from surveys conducted by the company Technopure concerning the Clemenceau, using expert inference to draw on information available from comparable vessels where necessary and appropriate.

The main conclusions of this independent expert assessment may be summarized as follows:-

1. based on the Technopure surveys and drawing on detailed information relating to a recently decommissioned container vessel/bulk carrier, it is estimated that the Clemenceau may have contained a total of approximately 760 tonnes of asbestos and asbestos containing material (ACM), only a fraction of which (approximately 70 tonnes) appears to have been removed to date.  This figure is well within the range of 500-1000 tonnes estimated by Technopure, figures which are considered in this assessment to be "a moderate and not unlikely estimate".

2. drawing on comparisons with the hazardous material inventory available for the former US aircraft carrier Oriskany, it is estimated that a total of 165 tonnes (upper bound estimate 330 tonnes) of PCB-containing materials classifying as hazardous waste under the terms of the Basel Convention may also remain on board, with electrical cable insulation accounting for the vast majority.  Many other sources of PCBs may also be present, including paints, rubber and ventilation gaskets, at average concentration levels below the 50 ppm Basel Convention limit for hazardous waste classification but adding up to a significant additional quantity of PCBs.

3. the report also notes the probable presence of quantities of heavy metals and other hazardous chemical additives in paints applied to all surfaces of the vessel, including TBT antifouling paint on wetted surfaces and the possibility of lead, copper and zinc compounds on other surfaces.

The assessment stresses that more detailed surveys of the vessel will be necessary in order to prepare a full inventory of hazardous materials remaining on board, in order to arrive at more empirical estimates of tonnages for the asbestos, PCBs and other materials mentioned above and to identify and quantify any other potential sources of hazardous materials.

In considering these findings it is important to bear in mind that the assessment has necessarily been based on the limited technical surveys and additional information available on this case from other parties and that it was clearly impossible to conduct any onboard survey of the vessel as part of this work.  The conclusions and estimates presented must therefore be read in this context.  

Num. pages: 27