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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 16:22 GMT
Dhaka bans 'toxic' French liner
SS Norway, French ocean-liner
Greenpeace has SS Norway on its 50 toxic vessels list
Bangladesh says it has imposed a ban on SS Norway, an asbestos-lined French ocean-liner, from being broken up in its ship-breaking yards.

Environment Minister Tariqul Islam made the decision after a meeting with officials and environment groups.

The ban comes a day after France ordered another asbestos-lined carrier, the Clemenceau, back from its journey to a ship-breaking yard in India.

Environmental group Greenpeace says the SS Norway is on its toxic ships list.

SS Norway, which was launched in 1960 as SS France, has been anchored for months off the Malaysian coast waiting for a buyer.

'Health disaster'

Mr Islam said that the central bank and the customs department have been ordered not to issue an import order for the ship.

The navy and coastguard have also been ordered to keep the ship out of Bangladeshi waters.

SS Norway, French ocean-liner
SS Norway is docked off the coast of Malaysia

"We have decided to ban the ship from entering our waters as we have information that it could trigger environmental and health disaster if it is dismantled here," Mr Islam said.

A Bangladeshi scrap merchant, Haji Lokman Hossain, said he had bought the 11-storey ocean-liner for $12m from an Indian buyer.

Although Mr Hossain said that he was surprised by the government's ban, he will not be contesting the decision in the courts.

"I do not want to fight the government about the ship. But I am surprised and shocked because [you will see] if you visit the scrap yards in Sitakundu [near Chittagong] some asbestos-laden ships are being scrapped there," he told the AFP news agency.

Environmentalists have welcomed the ban. Earlier they had given a legal notice to the government to stop the asbestos-lined ship from being imported.

Greenpeace has included SS Norway on a watch-list of 50 ships, which it fears will not be decontaminated before being dismantled.

It says the French workers who built the ship say it has 1,250 tonnes of material containing asbestos.

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