Toxic Trade News / 24 July 2006
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Asbestos tanker Otapan to leave Amsterdam at last
by Helen Hill, Turkish Maritime News
  Asbestos tanker bound for Turkey  
24 July 2006 – The controversial chemical tanker Otapan, berthed in the port of Amsterdam since 1999, is to begin its final journey tomorrow as the unwelcome 22,328 dwt visitor leaves for scrapping in Turkey.

Formerly owned by the Mexican company Navimin — Compania Naviera Minera de Golfo — the Otapan found itself in the spotlight when its crew started ripping bagloads of lethal brown asbestos out of the ship in 2001.

Fears that the Otapan will turn into a environmental cause célèbre like the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau have meant that industry insiders are not keen to talk about the vessel until it is towed beyond Dutch territorial waters.

Navimin had wanted to repair the vessel, but because the original insulating material — mainly asbestos — was in poor condition it had to be replaced and the crew were given the task.

By the time they had amassed 3,000 bags, or 26 tonnes, on deck the Dutch authorities were eventually alerted and the crew were ordered to stop. The master was placed under arrest.

Finally, the outside of the vessel was cleaned up with the government footing the bill. Since that time the Otapan has been sealed off, with many assuming its dying days would be spent in Amsterdam.

With the Otapan berthed in the heart of the city at the former Amsterdam Ship Repair yard, which later went bankrupt, Amsterdam has always been keen to see the vessel's departure.

After Navimin ran into financial difficulties the Dutch state also found itself the owner of the ship. Last year investigations showed that the vessel was incapable of sailing under its own steam and therefore it was decided to scrap it.

The government stated that "given the exorbitant cost" of scrapping the vessel in the Netherlands an alternative solution had been found.

The Otapan is due to start its journey to Turkey under tow tomorrow and will be scrapped at the Simsekler yard in Aliaga.

The Dutch government has had to foot the bill for the clean-up of the vessel.

And it could well be that there are political ramifications as its previous environmental stand is weakened.

The issue of cost ultimately meant that the problem was sent elsewhere.

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