12 May 2004

New rules over ghost ships urged:

The arrival of the "ghost ships" sparked a massive protest
The government is being urged to create a ship recycling policy to avoid any more rows over so-called "ghost ships".

The Environment Agency is also calling in its top level report for an international agreement on the issue.

The calls are in response to legal disputes over Able UK's plan to dismantle a fleet of US Navy ships said to contain toxic materials in Teesside.

Green group Friends of the Earth (FoE) welcomed the report which says "lessons should be learnt" from the drama.

FoE and Teesside residents launched a string of legal challenges to the multi-million pound contract going ahead at Able UK's Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre at the end of 2003.

The firm has been told it cannot carry out any work until waste management and planning regulations are met.

However, the paper entitled US Navy Ships Review and written by the Environment Agency chief executive Baroness Young of Old Scone, criticises FoE for "portraying the ships as placing the environment and public at risk".

"The agency considers that the transport of ships did not pose a threat to the environment or human health, and indeed no harm has occurred," her report reads.

But it also criticised Able UK for not ensuring it had all the correct procedures in place before undertaking the dismantling contract.

Important lessons must be learnt from the fiasco, she concluded.

"A national policy on ship recycling should be established, including imports and exports and whether minimum environmental standards should be applied to all facilities involved in recovering UK flagged vessels," she wrote.

"The government should also consider whether it should promote an international agreement on ship scrapping and recovery facilities."


FoE campaigns director Mike Childs said he was pleased the Environment Agency has learnt the lessons of the ghost ship saga.

"Proper environmental investigations are now being carried out into the environmental risks posed by developing a ship-scrapping facility and local people will be fully consulted."

But he said FoE believed rich countries should deal with their own waste, rather than export it.

The group also pledged to continue to do what it could to ensure the globally important wildlife site in the Tees Estuary is fully protected.

Source: BBC. 12 May 2004