Toxic Trade News / 17 February 2006
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Bangladesh bans asbestos ship Norway as Clemenceau repercussions hit India
by Andrew Spurrier, LLoyds List Daily
17 February 2006 (Paris) – The Bangladeshi government yesterday cited health and safety grounds for blocking a $12m contract signed by a local shipbreaker for the demolition of the 45-year-old cruiseship Norway.

The decision at an emergency ministerial meeting coincided with that of French president Jacques Chirac to bring the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau back to France rather than persist with efforts to have it demolished in India.

As with the Clemenceau, concern over the health risks posed by asbestos contained in the Norway's structure appear to have been behind the Bangladeshi government's decision not to allow the Star Cruises vessel into the country.

"On the basis of the information we have received we have decided to forbid the entry of the ship into our waters," said environment minister Tariql Islam yesterday.

He said the central bank and customs service had been ordered not to deliver documents allowing the vessel entry and the coastguard to ensure that no attempt was made to bring it into Bangladeshi waters.

The government's decision followed an announcement from the Giri Subedar Ship Breaking Yard that it had acquired the Norway for breaking.

Yard manager Haji Lokman Hossain said he had been "surprised and shocked" by the government's decision but indicated that he would not attempt to challenge it before the courts even though he believed that it had been the result of rumour-mongering by his competitors.

"All ships being broken here have an asbestos layer to protect from fire accidents and it is not harmful," he was quoted as saying by a local newspaper. "Those who could not buy the ship are spreading such rumours."

In India, shipyard workers were reported to be planning demonstrations and hunger strikes to protest over the loss of the Clemenceau demolition contract and to demand replacement work for the yard concerned.

French defence minister Michele Alliot-Marie said yesterday that the Clemenceau would be returning to France via the Cape of Good Hope rather than through the Suez Canal and could be expected to reach its destination in the naval port of Brest in three months.

She appeared to regret President Chirac's decision to bring the vessel home, saying that the French government's aim in the affair had been to create clean and safe procedures for dealing with ship scrapping, for which it knew there would be great need in the future. "This wish was given concrete form by the creation of a real partnership with a great industrial nation, India, in respect of the regulations and good international practice and I continue to think that it is a good solution," she said.

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