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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 17:50 GMT
Firm upbeat over toxic ship work
The Caloosahatchee arrives in Hartlepool
The first boat has arrived

The dangers of dismantling the so-called "ghost ships" have been over exaggerated, according to the head of the firm carrying out the work.

And as far as Peter Stephenson, managing director of Able UK, is concerned his company will still dismantle the toxic ships that are arriving from the US.

"We don't have a problem to resolve," Mr Stephenson told the BBC. "The permission is in place."

The High Court has blocked any work on dismantling the ships until Able UK proves it has the necessary clearance.

The US plans to send 13 former US Navy boats to Britain for dismantling and the first arrived on Wednesday.

No risk

What has caused uproar amongst residents and environmentalists is that the ships are seen as a potential health hazard.

They contain substances including asbestos, dirty oil, mercury, lead-based paints and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

'Ghost' fleet
There are 13 ships in total
The PCBs, which have been called "probable carcinogens" and have been linked with neurological and developmental problems in humans, are causing particular concern.

Mr Stephenson, however, is adamant that they will pose no risk to the public.

The PCBs and asbestos will be taken to the company's landfill and buried. The oil will be recycled and reused.

The asbestos on the ship that was docking was a few hundred tonnes, Mr Stephenson said, far less than the 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of the substance usually processed when they dismantle power plants.

Judicial review

As for the PCBs, found in plastic components and rubber seals, the dump is monitored and "in 30 years, we have never found any traces."

Mr Stephenson also took a swipe at Friends of the Earth, accusing the group of misrepresenting the facts.

In addition to the High Court action, the UK government has said the so-called "ghost ships" can be stored temporarily on Teesside, but should be sent back to the US.

But Mr Stephenson is undeterred.

"As far as we are concerned everything is correct," he said. "The decision for us to continue work will be heard at a judicial review in the middle of December."

"From the outcome of that we hope to be able to get the confirmation to commence the works and that will commence in January, straight after Christmas."


SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Ghost ships
07 Nov 03  |  England


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