Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 14:51 UK

'Ghost ship' firm in legal threat

Clemenceau
The Clemenceau was built in 1957

A legal challenge has been mounted to stop a French aircraft carrier being scrapped by a firm embroiled in a row over over so-called "ghost ships".

Hartlepool-based Able UK wants to dismantle the 32,700-tonne Clemenceau at its facility near Hartlepool.

But the Friends of Hartlepool group raised concerns about the vessel which contains 700 tonnes of asbestos.

The High Court will hear claims the Health and Safety Executive was wrong to grant Able a waste certificate.

The Clemenceau, which was once the pride of the French navy, is currently berthed in France after being brought back from India in 2006 amid concerns over her toxic elements.

Public interest

Jean Kennedy, of the Friends of Hartlepool group, said: "The HSE has made a special exception to allow this toxic ghost ship and its deadly cargo into our local community.

"We feel that it is a deep injustice to force a small town, which has already disproportionately suffered the ill-effects of polluting industries and has one of the highest cancer rates in the UK, to accept France's toxic waste."

Able UK caused an outcry when it brought four rusting US "ghost ships" to its dock five years ago.

After years of legal wrangling, Able won planning permission and a waste management licence to allow it to break up ships at its Graythorpe facility.

Phil Shiner, from Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), said: "This challenge raises significant public-interest environmental issues where the HSE has clearly failed to follow their own policy on granting exemptions to health and safety legislation."

A HSE spokesman confirmed a challenge had been made, but said no other comment could be made until after the case.

The case is expected to be heard later this month.


SEE ALSO
Chirac orders 'toxic' ship home
16 Feb 06 |  Europe

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