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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 March, 2005, 21:28 GMT
Ruling signals more 'ghost ships'
Ghost ship
Four of the vessels are currently moored in Hartlepool
A US federal judge has cleared the way for nine more former naval ships to be dismantled on Teesside.

Four of the so-called "ghost ships" are already docked at Hartlepool-based Able UK, waiting permission to be broken up.

The judge dismissed the case of environmental groups against the US Maritime Administration (Marad), mainly on technical grounds.

Able UK said it was an "important step forward" but it still needs permission to start work on any of the ships.

The firm's chairman and chief executive Peter Stephenson said: "The news from the United States is obviously very welcome.

"It is a logical and common sense decision which we had hoped for and expected."

Assess impact

He said other procedures needed to be completed before work could start on the four vessels from Marad before any more ships could be handled.

Able is still consulting with officials after submitting a planning application in January to Hartlepool Council for the development of its Graythorp yard.

The company originally signed a deal with Marad to dismantle 13 ships. The first four arrived in 2003, but a string of planning and legal hurdles delayed the other nine.

Mr Stephenson said: "As far as our contract with Marad is concerned, as a result of the delays caused by us having to apply for planning permission and a waste management licence again, the original nine vessels identified for transfer to Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre have been disposed of elsewhere.

'Not satisfied'

"Following the judge's ruling we will now agree with Marad on nine other vessels within the reserve fleet which can complete our contract.

"Once the vessels have been identified, we will follow the same procedure used on the original four ships, inspecting them and carrying out any work needed to make them suitable for tow.

"Once inspected and approved for towing, a decision on when they will be moved to our facility will be dependent on the time of the year - the optimum 'weather window' for bringing ships across the Atlantic is between March and September - and the availability of suitable tugs."

Martin Wagner, an attorney with environmental law firm Earthjustice, in the United States, said it was "not at all satisfied".

But he said despite the judge's decision, it had achieved part of what it had hoped because processes will have to be carried out to assess the impact of exporting the ships.

Q&A: Ghost ships
07 Jan 04 |  England

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