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Environment Agency faces legal challenge over ghost fleet

Friends of the Earth - Press Release

6th October 2003

Friends of the Earth announced today that it has warned the Environment Agency that it intends to issue a legal challenge over a decision which allows the US `ghost fleet' to be brought to the UK. The first of the two ships are expected to leave the James River in Virginia imminently, en route for Teesside where they will be scrapped.

The environmental group intends to seek a judicial review of the Agency's decision to modify a Waste Management Licence (WML) to dismantle and dispose of ships from the US `ghost fleet' on Teesside without carrying out an adequate environmental assessment. In a `Letter Before Claim', Friends of the Earth says that it believes the Environment Agency's decision to grant a modification of the licence was unlawful. Unless the Environment Agency revokes, or satisfactorily justifies this decision, Friends of the Earth will make an application for permission to seek judicial review.

A modification of the licence was needed before the ships were allowed to leave the US for Britain. Permission for the boats to enter UK waters, granted by the UK Marine and Coastguard Agency on Saturday, has been made even though a number of outstanding issues have still to be resolved. These include:

Uncertainty about whether Able UK has planning permission to build the facility (a rock-filled bund) for scrapping the boats;

A licence from the Government for the bund to be built has yet to be granted

There has not been an adequate environmental impact assessment on the risks posed to internationally protected wildlife sites in the area.

Friends of the Earth's Director, Tony Juniper, said:

"We believe that the Environment Agency has acted unlawfully in allowing the modification of this waste management licence. Unless the Environment Agency revokes or justifies its decision, we will seek judicial review.

"It is outrageous that these boats have been allowed to leave the US, as permission has not been granted for the boats to be dismantled and disposed of in a dry dock on Teesside. We are extremely disappointed with UK authorities, including the Environment Agency, English Nature and the Coastguard, for agreeing to allow these boats to come to Teesside. Their ghost fleet decision may come back to haunt them. These toxic ships should be disposed of in the US, and not sent on a hazardous cross-Atlantic voyage to be dumped on the north east."

Contact details:

Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
N1 7JQ

Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881