Controversy Creates Concern for Shipbreaking

Monday, January 23, 2006
A court-appointed panel has questioned French officials and environmental activists over the amount of toxic chemicals in the decommissioned Clemenceau, whose planned scrapping here raised strenuous objections from green groups. The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee has ordered the Clemenceau -- the former pride of the French navy -- to stay out of India's exclusive economic zone until the final report is ready. The committee chairman, G. Thyagarajan, said the body would present its final recommendations to a bench of the Supreme Court by February 13. Thyagarajan said his team was examining whether the Clemenceau, which left the Mediterranean port of Toulon on December 31, had fulfilled obligations under global treaties such as the Basel Convention as well as domestic regulations on environmental protection. The yard was set up in 1983 and has scrapped a total of 4,240 ships so far. In 1989 it dismantled 361 ship, but by March 2005 the numbers had fallen to 116 about the same level where it started. employ me." Officials from the Gujarat Maritime Board, ship-breaking firm Shree Ram Vessels' and the French SDI ship decommissioning firm have all made submissions to the hearing, saying that worker safety was not an issue. But association official Aggrawal said that if the government imposed new restrictions because of the controversy, the survival of the industry would be in question. Environmental activists say most sea-going ships end their service at yards in India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan, where they are cut up by unprotected workers, taking a grim toll on human health and the environment. The Clemenceau, which was prevented from sailing through the Suez canal for a week because of fears over the amount of toxic chemicals it contained, entered the waterway Monday, Egyptian officials told journalists. Source: AFP

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