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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 22:01 GMT
High Court blocks 'ghost ships' work
Four rusting US vessels are heading to UK shores
The High Court has blocked any work on dismantling the so-called 'ghost ships' heading for Britain until crucial legal challenges have been heard.

Four ships are on a 4,000 mile journey from the James River, Virginia, in the United States, and are due to dock at Able UK's Hartlepool yard in mid-November.

Friends of the Earth had asked the High Court in London to quash a change to the Environment Agency licence allowing the work to go ahead.

Able UK contested the injunction, claiming it would result in losses of 220,000 a week.

However, Mr Justice Maurice Kay decided the injunction should be granted until the week beginning 8 December.

He ruled that, if the ships came to port, no work should take place "except for measures to make and keep them safe".

The fight must still go on to send these ships back to America, their country of origin
Neil Gregan, Hartlepool resident
Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said he was pleased with the injunction, but called on the Environment Agency to secure the immediate return of the ships to the United States.

"If the UK Government and its agencies don't do this then these toxic time bombs could be sitting off our coast within days, threatening our environment indefinitely", he said.

In a statement, Able UK said they would have preferred to begin work on the vessels immediately, but understood why the judge had made the decision.

"We are confident that our TERRC (Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre) facility is fully equipped to ensure that the vessels can be moored and kept in a safe condition until the hearing scheduled for December 8."

Legal challenge

At the December hearing, Able UK will ask the court to declare that a modification to the waste management licence preventing them from disposing of the ships was invalid.

At a later hearing in December, three Hartlepool residents will apply for a judicial review against Hartlepool Borough Council over related issues.

Neil Gregan, Stephen Hall and Ben Marley, who all live near the Able UK site where the ships are due to be dismantled, say they could pose environmental risks to ecologically-important sites nearby.

The fleet of 13 ships contains toxic substances, including asbestos and heavy diesel.

Mr Gregan said after the hearing: "We are very pleased to have got the injunction, but the fight must still go on to send these ships back to America, their country of origin."

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Environment Agency said it was firmly of the view that the US authorities must take immediate steps to secure the return to the USA of vessels presently on route to the UK.

Barbara Young, Environment Agency
"I don't think the public need to be concerned"

Inquiry into ghost ships deal
03 Nov 03  |  Tees
'Ghost fleet' faces setback
01 Nov 03  |  Tees

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