The shipbreaking yard in Alang, Gujarat, is in the news once again, albeit for all the wrong reasons. This time the decommissioned French Aircraft carrier Clemenceau is headed for Alang after being denied entry by several European countries. The aircraft carrier is expected by the first quarter of 2005.
The 33,000-tonne warship, decommissioned in 1997, reportedly contains hazardous chemicals because of which it has already been denied entry in shipbreaking yards in Greece, Turkey and other countries.
According to a Supreme Court directive, all ships need to be free of hazardous substances before they come onshore for shipbreaking from other parts of the world. In addition, the Court orders place the responsibility for removing the hazardous waste on the ship owner. Hence, any ship that is sent for breaking must be first decontaminated.
Environmental organisations are already protesting against Clemenceau's entry into India as they feel it is a violation of the apex court's directive. International environment watchdog, Greenpeace, protesting against the deemed illegal import of the Clemenceau, has pleaded with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to immediately clarify with the French authorities whether all relevant obligations and procedures of the international regulation on ship recycling (in particular the EU WS Regulation) have been complied with, including obtainment of "no-objection certificate from the Indian Ministry(s) of Defense and Environment and Forest."
In a letter written to Union Environment Minister A. Raja, Greenpeace said, "We have recently learnt from the French defence ministry that Clemenceau will arrive on Indian shores in the first quarter of 2005, to be scrapped by the Indian company AG Enterprises Ltd-Shree Ram Vessels Scrap Ltd, in Alang, Gujarat. The French authority has also confirmed that 210 tonnes of asbestos has been removed but the rest of residual asbestos and other toxic substances...would be remo-ved in India. The ship would yield 22,000 tons of metal."
Mukesh Patel, Managing Director, Shree Ram Vessels Scrap Ltd, confirmed that his company was negotiating with the French for scrapping the warship. But, he denied that the ship contained toxic substances which, he claimed, were removed by the French Government. "All the hazardous materials have been removed. The environmentalists' allegations are baseless. They have caused a lot of damage to the industry and if Clemenceau is barred from Alang, no more ships will come here."