NGO optimistic on toxic ship plan

Greenpeace is "optimistic" that a national strategy for recycling defunct ships will be devised now that a parliamentary select committee has announced an inquiry into the environmental impacts of dismantling such ships in the UK.

The issue of ship dismantling became a political hot potato earlier this year when Friends of the Earth discovered the US was sending defunct US Navy vessels, replete with toxic pollutants, across the Atlantic to Teeside for recycling. The ships are still sitting in a dock at Hartlepool while legal battles rage over whether the recycling company has planning permission to dismantle them.

Soon after they arrived, Greenpeace joined forces with union GMB and Labour MP Peter Mandelson to launch a campaign calling for a ship recycling industry to be developed in Britain.

A week later, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee announced its inquiry.

The committee will examine existing recycling facilities, investigate the likely demand for services, and consider the economic and environmental impacts of meeting that demand. It will also look at how defunct UK vessels are currently dealt with.

Greenpeace has been asked to make a submission to the committee by the 14 May deadline. Simon Reddy, Greenpeace's policy and solutions director, said the UK sends many of its defunct ships to India, where locals risk their lives by taking the ships apart by hand (Third Sector, 7 April).

It wants the Government to take a lead by pledging to recycle its naval and fisheries vessels here instead of sending them to India. Eventually, the charity wants to see a global recycling network formed, which works on the "proximity principle" of minimising the distances they travel to be decommissioned.

"No one country should be a dumping ground for another," said Reddy. "If countries are made responsible for dismantling their own ships, maybe they would use less harmful substances when they build them."

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