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French asbestos warship heading for 'ghost fleet' shipyard

Work on the Clemenceau will take 10 months, while work on the four US ships, due to begin on August 1, should be completed within eight months.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) July 1, 2008
Able UK, the firm which will dismantle the asbestos-contaminated French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, hit the headlines in 2003 over four US "ghost ships" -- which are still rusting in the shipyard.

Able, which is based in Billingham, a heavily industrial town on the banks of the River Tees near Middlesbrough, northeast England, boasts one of the world's largest ship recycling facilities.

The firm bought the Graythorp Shipyard in 1996 and renamed it the Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre.

It has a 25-acre (10-hectare) dry dock which can accommodate ships up to 400 yards (366 metres) long, or 15 ships measuring 200 metres by 24 metres.

Able specialises in the rehabilitation and development of disused sites and facilities and says it is "built on total reliability and respect for the environment".

Its clients for offshore structures decommissioning include some of the major international oil companies.

But it has only recently received its waste management and environmental licenses that will permit the firm to start breaking down the Clemenceau -- plus the controversial "ghost fleet" still sitting in its dry dock.

Five years ago, Able found itself at the centre of protests by environmental groups the over four US ships Caloosahatchee, Canisteo, Canopus and Compass Island.

Campaigners, including environmentalists Greenpeace, said the rusting vessels contained asbestos, PCBs, crude oil residue and other toxic materials, and the United States alone should have been responsible for dismantling them.

The four ships were among 13 retired navy vessels that Able UK was contracted to recycle under a deal with the US government worth nearly 15 million dollars.

The ships were part of a bigger fleet of nearly 100 rusting for decades in the James River in Virginia.

But work could not start until planning permission was granted and Able had to renegotiate the contract, keeping four ships while letting the other nine go.

Work on the Clemenceau will take 10 months, while work on the four US ships, due to begin on August 1, should be completed within eight months.

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