Toxic Trade News / 12 January 2006
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Greenpeace Stops Clemenceau Leaving European Territory
Greenpeace Press Release
12 January 2006 (Cairo) – Greenpeace activists today intercepted and boarded the French aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, raising the stakes in the international row over the decommissioning of the Clemenceau, which has been sent to India for decommissioning despite widespread outrage at the high levels of asbestos and other hazardous materials it contains.

At 07:20hrs this morning, two activists boarded the carrier 50 nautical miles from the coast of Egypt in international waters. They are currently on one of the ship’s masts with banners declaring: ”asbestos carrier: stay out of India”.

The Indian Supreme Court Monitoring Committee has already acknowledged that the arrival of the Clemenceau in India would be a violation of the Basel Convention, the international treaty preventing the trade in hazardous materials.

Greenpeace is now calling on Egypt to refuse permission for the Clemenceau to enter the Suez Canal and progress further towards its final destination of Alang, India.

The Clemenceau has been the subject of intense international debate, as the French Government refuses to reconsider its decision to send the military aircraft carrier to India without prior decontamination. The ship had already been refused entry into Greece, when military personnel had to board the ship in the Mediterranean to return it to France.

Greenpeace activists demonstrated against the ship's departure from France, with non-violent protests in simultaneously in France and India.

"The Clemenceau presents an immediate danger to the Indian environment and to the workers at the Alang ship-breaking yard," said Jacob Hartmann, Greenpeace campaigner on board the vessel that halted the Clemenceau's progress today. "There is more than sufficient evidence to establish that the French Government has failed to decontaminate the ship, even to the standards they agreed to, let alone to international standards. We simply cannot allow the ship to get any closer to its destination. India has spoken, and they do not want this ship!"

In India, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee proclaimed on 7 January that importing the Clemenceau to India would be considered a serious violation of the Basel Convention (1), after hearing the testimony of asbestos removal experts from officials from Technopure: the company originally contracted by the French Government to decontaminate the ship, who stated that at least 500 tonnes of asbestos still remain onboard. (2)

Yesterday, in France, Greenpeace and the Ban Asbestos Network started court proceedings to remove the confidentiality clause from the contract on asbestos removal from the Clemenceau, so that details regarding toxic substances onboard may be revealed. The Court is expected to rule today.

"France has repeatedly tried to evade its responsibility regarding the Clemenceau," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network. "Their standards for handling asbestos are amongst the highest in the world. But instead of investing in safe removal and disposal of the asbestos on the Clemenceau, they are trying to dupe the Indian Government, and dump their toxic wastes onto the poorest of the poor of the world. This is absolutely reprehensible; certainly not the kind of attitude one would expect of a supposedly civilised nation!"

Greenpeace is demanding that:

1. The French Government agrees to take back the Clemenceau and decontaminate it thoroughly before allowing it to leave Europe

2. The Indian Government refuses to allow the Clemenceau permission to arrive in India as long as the ship is not thoroughly decontaminated.

3. The Egyptian Government upholds its commitment to the Basel Convention, and refuses permission for the Clemenceau to transit through Egypt or to enter the Suez Canal and head further towards India until the Basel obligations are fulfilled (3)

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Photos available from Franca Michienzi, Photo Desk +31 653 819 255
Video available from Michael Nagasaka, Video Desk +31 646 166 309


Notes to editor

1. This means that at least 80% of the asbestos amount is still onboard. France claims that 115 tonnes of asbestos has been removed. Technopure claims that at least 500 tonnes is still onboard. This means that at least 615 tonnes of asbestos were onboard the Clemenceau originally.

2. As per decision VII/26 taken at the COP7 meeting of the Basel Convention, end-of-life ships are considered 'waste' and it is irrelevant that the Clemenceau is a ‘war ship.

3. Egypt has already officially said that it would uphold the Basel convention for ships heading for breaking yards going through the canal. Amongst other things, Egypt has stated that prior notification procedures should be implemented when such ships transit through the Suez Canal. Failing compliance with those requirements, Egypt - as a party to the convention - shall consider such a crossing an illegal one in line with the Basel convention provisions.



CONTACT: Greenpeace
Jacob Hartmann, Greenpeace Nordic, (mobile) +4528109020
Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, +1 206 652 5555
Martin Besieux in Egypt, Greenpeace international toxics campaigner + 32 96161585
Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace India Toxics Campaigner, +91 98 455 35 414
Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +44 7801 212 960
Vivek Sharma, Greenpeace India Communications, +91 934 378 8424


Article Link: Greenpeace Stops Clemenceau Leaving European Territory

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