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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
'Ghost ship' firm eyes Scots yard
Ghost ship
The ships are currently laid up on Teeside
A company which brought naval "ghost ships" from the US to the UK has put forward a bid for the disused Nigg fabrication yard in the Highlands.

Able UK is in dispute with environmental agencies over plans for a scrap yard facility in Hartlepool.

Environmentalists say the naval ships are carrying toxic material, which the company denies.

The ships could be transferred to Scotland to be broken up if the dispute in Hartlepool is not resolved.

Green campaigners claim the vessels contain high levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Able UK's Peter Stephenson said it was "not correct" to say they carry toxic waste and criticised campaigners for spreading misinformation.

We've brought more than 60 structures in there which have been decommissioned and caused no problems whatsoever
Peter Stephenson
Able UK

He said the company had been looking at the Nigg facility for a number of years.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said the company was looking to buy the Scottish yard for use in decommissioning redundant North Sea oil platforms.

Mr Stephenson was asked if work on breaking up the American ships could be transferred from Hartlepool if permission was ultimately refused to do the job there.

Fabrication contract

"First of all there's no agreement to carry out that work at Nigg," he said.

"It will be a part of our intention to apply in the future for permission to decommission offshore structures there which will include the offshore platforms that we're bringing from the North Sea.

"We would see potential of bringing some of them and potentially ships there the same as on Teesside."

The company had a client who was interested in a fabrication contract in the dry dock at Nigg, Mr Stephenson said.

Able UK
Able UK says it has operated successfully in Teesside for 10 years

Referring to environmental concerns about the work, he said Able UK had been successfully decommissioning offshore platforms in Teeside for 10 years.

"We've brought more than 60 structures in there which have been decommissioned and caused no problems whatsoever.

"Before we did anything (in Scotland) we'd have to complete an environmental and impact statement, which would be a planning application.

"It would take into account the views of the people and the community."

Green opposition

The Scottish Greens said they were concerned about the possibility of toxic waste coming to the Cromarty Firth.

Green MSP Eleanor Scott said: "I'm dismayed by the suggestion that those toxic ships, containing asbestos and who-knows-what other toxic chemicals, should come to Nigg.

"We will oppose this vigorously. The Nigg fabrication yard is situated in the environmentally sensitive Cromarty Firth and close to designated areas important for bird and aquatic life."

Rich countries such as the US have an obligation not to dump on others but to deal with their own contaminated fleet at home too
Dr Dan Barlow
FoE Scotland

The Scottish National Party Highlands and Islands MSP Rob Gibson said: ¿It is vital to the future of the Highlands that the Nigg yards are used for the development of renewable energy technology.

"It would be totally unacceptable for these yards to be used for the scrapping of these toxic ships.¿

Friends of the Earth Scotland said it hoped the yard could be used to support "clean jobs for the local community in sustainable industries".

The group's Dr Dan Barlow added: "We believe that Britain should be responsible for dealing with its own redundant ships.

'Contaminated fleet'

"Likewise, other rich countries such as the US have an obligation not to dump on others but to deal with their own contaminated fleet at home too."

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

Four naval ships are currently moored on Teesside.

But planning and legal hurdles have delayed the remaining nine vessels, currently moored in the James River in Virginia, leaving for the UK.

The application submitted to Hartlepool Council involves the construction of three new quays, a cofferdam and a dry dock gate.

Q&A: Ghost ships
07 Jan 04 |  England
Nigg subs bid withdrawn
05 Nov 03 |  Scotland

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