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Toxic French vessel raises health concerns

Environmental campaigners have raised fears that the planned scrapping of an asbestos-laden French aircraft carrier on Teesside could be health hazard to the local population.

world Updated: Feb 09, 2009 19:02 IST

Environmental campaigners have raised fears that the planned scrapping of an asbestos-laden French aircraft carrier on Teesside could be health hazard to the local population.

The 51-year-old Clemenceau arrived at the Hartlepool yard of Able UK on Sunday after having been rejected as too dangerous by scrapyards in India, Turkey and Greece.

Local and national groups voiced concern about the 700 tonnes of asbestos built into the ship as fire retardant.

"I am disappointed that the French government could not find a way to dismantle the vessel in French shipyards," said Laurie Kazan-Allen of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.

"They are one of the leading countries in the world for dismantling such ships -- why can't they do it there""

The Friends of Hartlepool, which opposes the growing ship-breaking business on Teesside, has warned that plans to dump the potentially cancerous material at a nearby landfill site are hazardous to health.

But Peter Stephenson, chairman of Able UK, pointed out that the 10 million-pound contract with the French government would create 200 jobs in the region.

"At a time when there are so many economic problems facing the world -- and especially a region such as the northeast of England -- I think it is crucially important that we are in a position to be at the forefront of an industry which has enormous potential for growth and job creation," he added.

Stephenson said the demolition would be carried out in safe and environmentally sound conditions.

"We have been doing this work for 40 years," he told Reuters.

"With the demolition of big power stations we used the same precautions, such as protective clothing for our workers, and we follow all the safety guidelines. There have never been any issues at all."