Page last updated at 08:11 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 09:11 UK

Ghost ship firm to scrap carrier

The Clemenceau was built in 1957

A French aircraft carrier which was too toxic to break up in India is to be scrapped by a firm embroiled in a row over so-called US "ghost ships".

Hartlepool-based Able UK said the deal to scrap the 32,700-tonne Clemenceau is the biggest of its kind in Europe.

The vessel contains 700 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated material and was recalled to France from India in 2006 amid concerns over its toxic elements.

Able overcame environmental concerns over its recycling plans last month.

The company is due to begin recycling work on the 780ft-long (238 metre) vessel later this year.

President Jacques Chirac had to call the ship back from India two years ago after the furious Socialist opposition embarrassed him over the decision to send France's waste abroad while "lecturing the world on the environment".

Tough opposition

The Clemenceau, once the pride of the French navy, has spent the past five years being moved around as officials tried to find a final resting place for the vessel.

Launched in 1957, the Clemenceau was the mainstay of the French naval fleet and sailed over a million nautical miles before being decommissioned in 1997.

Work on the Clemenceau will take place alongside existing contracts to scrap four vessels from the American National Defense Reserve Fleet.

The company faced tough opposition to its recycling plans, but was given final approval by the Environment Agency last week.

Able UK chairman Peter Stephenson said: "We have always argued that, given the opportunity, we would lead the way in recycling ships to the highest possible environmental standards.

"This has been underlined with the decision by the French authorities that we should undertake the work on the Clemenceau, which will be the biggest ship recycling project so far handled by any European yard."

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