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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
Ship breaking firm 'vindicated'
US ghost fleet
Around 60 vessels are awaiting disposal in the James River
A fleet of 'ghost ships' rusting away on Teesside because of a legal wrangle are a step closer to being dismantled.

It is exactly a year ago since the four American naval vessels arrived in Hartlepool to be broken up.

The work was due to be carried out by Able UK, but was halted over claims the fleet was an environmental "timebomb."

But now managing director

Green campaigners claim the vessels contain high levels of toxic PCBs.

But on Friday the US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (Marad) is defending its bid to send more vessels to the UK.

A US court is due to consider allowing more rusting former naval vessels to be scrapped on Teesside.

Able UK originally signed a deal to dismantle 13 ships at a dry dock facility in Hartlepool.

But a catalogue of planning and legal hurdles has delayed the remaining nine vessels, currently moored in the James River in Virginia, from leaving for the UK.

Strict rules

The case, due to be heard before a district judge in Washington DC, is being brought by the environmental pressure group Basal Action Network (Ban).

The group has accused the US government of ignoring strict rules on exporting PCBs from the United States.

But Marad has insisted that no further ships will be allowed to sail to Teesside until Able UK has all the necessary permits and agreements with government agencies and Hartlepool Borough Council.

Able UK says it is in the process of submitting a renewed planning application for a dry dock to Hartlepool Council.

The company says it wants to establish a 30m a year business on Teesside, which could generate at least 200 new jobs.




SEE ALSO:
'Ghost fleet' costs top 9m
21 Jan 04 |  Tees
Q&A: Ghost ships
07 Jan 04 |  England


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