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Morley boosts Able's plan to scrap ghost ships

By Greg Pitcher

The chances of four decaying US navy ships being recycled in Hartlepool rose significantly this week after Able UKs attempt was backed by Elliot Morley.

The Environment Minister told the House of Commons that scrapping the vessels where they are docked on Teesside is best for the environment.

Ables controversial contract to recycle the potentially toxic ships appeared doomed when the high court ruled it did not have the relevant licences.

The Government had been expected to send the vessels back to the US when the weather made this possible next month, but Morley seems to have ruled out that possibility.

The ships are safely stored at Hartlepool and are regularly inspected, he said. I emphasise that we should consider the best environmental option, which, in my view, is to recycle them on site.

Of course that requires the necessary legal and environmental permissions. If they cannot be recycled on site, the next best option is to recycle them in the UK or the EU.

If that cannot be done, they will have to be returned. However, if we are concerned about environmental outcomes, the best option is to recycle on site.

Able announced in February it was applying for new planning permission and waste-management licences to scrap the ships, after its current ones were ruled to be invalid.

The firm admitted this would take until June, which is after the 180-day deadline that European law allows for work on the ships from when it took ownership of them.

But Morley said this would not matter as new legislation allows work to continue on a waste shipment for up to a year.

I have checked out the situation under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rules and the EU rules, and the 365-day rule is the relevant one, he said.

Friends of the Earth reacted in dismay to the ministers comments. Campaigns director Mike Childs said: Elliot Morley is jumping the gun in saying the four ghost ships should be scrapped in Hartlepool when he knows that risk assessments into the best environmental option for dealing with these ships have yet to be completed.

His statement undermines confidence in the assessment process. The whole ghost fleet fiasco is the result of decisions being made without proper information.

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