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Controversial aircraft carrier coming

By Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI, JULY 4. The controversial French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, reportedly laden with hazardous chemical wastes, is shortly arriving for recycling at the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat. The ship had been refused entry by Turkey and Greece in the past for carrying hazardous chemicals on board.

In November 2003, both Turkey and Greece barred the ship from their waters until it had been decontaminated. Both governments were aware that the aircraft carrier would have vast quantities of toxic materials such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), TBT (tributyltin) asbestos, and in all probability, radioactive waste on board. The French authorities had made a commitment to decontaminate the ship in Spain, but for inexplicable reasons it never reached Spain, following which both Turkey and Greece refused to allow it to be scrapped in their countries.

Recent reports have indicated that the ship will be sent to Indian yards after the asbestos on board has been removed — a procedure that should take about six months, Greenpeace activists said. The organisation has called upon the French authorities to remove the other toxic material also such as TBT, PCB and radioactive substances.

"French authorities must adhere to the European Union Waste Shipment law, International Maritime Organisation guidelines on Ship Recycling and the Basel Convention, and must respect the Indian Supreme Court's order on ship recycling. The French authorities must hand over the Inventory of Hazardous Materials according to the industry code of practice,'' Greenpeace activist Ramapati Kumar said.

He said Greenpeace wanted Indian ship-breakers to refuse any deals if the French authorities failed to provide the "no objection certificate" from the Government of India.

For India, the orders of the Supreme Court clearly indicate that ships need to be free of hazardous substances before they come onshore for ship-breaking. The court's orders also place the responsibility for the hazardous waste on the ship owner. Hence any ship that is sent for breaking must be decontaminated.

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