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Warship heads to India for demolition

The 24,200 tonne ship is to be towed over the next two months to the world's largest ship-breaking yard in Alang.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2006 08:50 IST

A French warship insulated with asbestos, which is at the centre of a court battle with environmental groups resumed its final journey to an Indian breaker's yard on Monday, authorities said.

The aircraft carrier Clemenceau was hooked up to a powerful Dutch tugboat on Monday morning, after bad weather stalled its departure by 24 hours, said a maritime official in the southeastern French port of Toulon.

The 24,200 tonne ship, which no longer has a power plant, is to be towed over the next two months to the world's largest ship-breaking yard in Alang, northwest India.

Five French navy tugs towed the 265-metre (870 foot) Clemenceau out of Toulon harbour on Sunday, while boats formed a cordon to prevent interference from campaigners, but stormy weather prevented the Dutch tugboat from taking control of the vessel.

Greenpeace and three other groups have tried for months to block the transfer on the grounds that Indian shipyard workers are not properly protected from the hazards of working with asbestos, which can cause fatal lung diseases.

Both Greenpeace and the Ban Asbestos group are to bring a suit this week before the State Council, France's highest court, in a final bid to prevent the ship from going to India, their lawyer said.

Another environmental group, Robin des Bois (Robin Hood), argues that the French state acted responsibly by undertaking 90 percent of the asbestos decontamination work itself, a first for European shipping.

The Clemenceau, which was commissioned in 1961 and took part in the 1991 Gulf War, was taken out of service six years after the war when it was superseded by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

First Published: Jan 03, 2006 01:46 IST