Toxic Trade News / 26 August 2006
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Asbestos ship denied docking
by New Anatolian (Turkey)
26 August 2006 – Controversial ship the Otapan contains more asbestos than first claimed and so won't be allowed in Turkish territorial waters after all, the Environment and Forestry Ministry announced on Friday.

The ship, which was expected to dock in Turkey to have its asbestos coverings removed, became a subject of debate between the Netherlands and Turkey when environmental groups claimed that the ship contains a fatal amount of asbestos in its hull and called on the Turkish government to bar the ship from entering Turkish territorial waters.

However there were claims that the ship had already been in Turkish waters for some time and was waiting for official permission from the ministry to dock in Aliaga, Izmir. Coast Guard Command officials made no comment on the issue but didn't deny claims that the ship was in Turkish waters.

After public outcry, the Turkish government asked the Dutch side to deliver documents about the amount of asbestos in the ship to confirm whether the vessel contains 1 ton of asbestos as Dutch officials claim. Environmental groups previously claimed that the ship actually contains nearly 10 tons of asbestos and it's also claimed that the ship has already entered Turkish waters and that its asbestos coverings are being removed and dumped in the sea.

On Friday the ministry announced that there Dutch officials have confirmed that there's over 1 ton of asbestos in the ship and that it won't be allowed to dock in Turkey to have it removed.

Environment and Forestry Minister Osman Pepe said the ministry is working in cooperation with the Coast Guard and the ship was being kept out of Turkish waters. "We've informed the Dutch authorities that we won't accept the ship," he announced.

In related news, Ship Building and Repairs Workers' Union (LIMTER-IS) Izmir branch head Selahattin Ilgaz said that asbestos and chemicals pose a great danger to human health and are very dangerous when used in ship building or during shipbreaking.

Ilgaz said that in Aliaga, Izmir there are many docks and shipyards but added that close by there are no health clinics or ambulances. "Currently there are 100 people working in the ship-breaking yards but only 13 are members of our union. We even don't have an ambulance we can use if there's a emergency," Ilgaz lamented.

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