Clemenceau: A Victory for the International Law and Environmental Justice
"Ghost Fleet" Ships of any Nation Must Not be Dumped in Asia
BAN Press Release
15 February 2006 (Seattle, WA.) –
The Basel Action Network (BAN), a global toxic trade watchdog, hailed today's announcement by President Jacques Chirac to halt the export to India of the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau, containing hundreds of tons of hazardous asbestos and banned chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Chirac's decision followed a mass cyber-age coalition campaign that linked human rights and environmental groups around the world, and culminated when France's top administrative court finally agreed with the activists and ruled the Clemenceau's export to the western Indian state of Gujarat should be halted because in fact the ship was a hazardous waste subject to control under the Basel Convention.
BAN, which in 2003 filed a lawsuit to halt the United States from exporting PCB containing hazardous ex-naval vessels, claimed the recall of the vessel as a vindication of the Basel Convention, an international treaty governing the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes. Recently the global shipping industry and countries like the United States, France and India had denied that the Convention's prohibitions and controls on the export of hazardous wastes to developing countries applied to ships despite the Basel Convention's ruling that it did. The United States has hundreds of aging naval vessels in its "ghost fleet" loaded with containing vast quantities of hazardous substances that they have been seeking to export for scrap instead of pre-cleaning or dismantling them domestically.
"France has finally been dragged, kicking and screaming to face the realities of its own international obligations as a global citizen, and the message for the rest of the world is very clear -- Take Responsibility for Your Own Toxic Waste!" said Jim Puckett of BAN. "The Basel Convention agreed to by 167 countries clearly demands that old ships must first be pre-cleaned if they are going to be freely exported to developing countries for scrap. It is no longer acceptable for superpowers and the shipping industry to act as if they are above the law and all principles of environmental justice," he said.
Thousands of ships, military and commercial, containing many thousands of tonnes of fuel residues, asbestos, PCBs and other hazardous substances await dismantling in the next few years. In recent years decommissioned ships have been broken on the beaches of South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India where impoverished laborers toil in horrific conditions being exposed to cancer causing chemicals. Meanwhile, according to BAN, the global shipping industry has failed to properly address the issue and instead have claimed that the responsibility lies with the developing countries to improve their facilities. Yet BAN claims that the exports move to developing countries precisely because these countries do not provide proper labor and environmental protections and the shipping industry enjoys the cheap and dirty option to maximize their profits.
BAN denounced the effort launched last year at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to create a new treaty on shipbreaking that, at the behest of the international shipping industry, is designed to provide far less controls than the Basel Convention.
"Its a classic case of polluters not paying and instead passing on their very real costs to some of the poorest most desperate communities on earth. These laborers are then forced to pay with their very lives," said Puckett. "The Basel Convention says NO to this immoral practice. The IMO must not be allowed to scrap this landmark principle to line the pockets of powerful countries and industries."
For more information contact:
Jim Puckett, BAN: Phone: office: +1.206.652.5555, cell: +1.206.354.0391, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For more information on the Clemenceau case and international shipbreaking visit: http://www.ban.org
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