Silencing the ghosts

A High Court judge yesterday granted an injunction against Able UK carrying out any dismantling work on ships from the US toxic ghost fleet until crucial legal challenges are heard in early December.

Permission for the ships to enter UK ports still remains invalid, and the Environment Agency, Friends of the Earth and Hartlepool council have all called for them to be returned to the USA.

Friends of the Earth went to the High Court in London yesterday to ask the judge to quash a modification to a waste management licence granted by the Environment Agency to Able UK in September. The Environment Agency agreed to Friends of the Earth’s application as it now believes the modification is invalid, however it was contested by lawyers for Able UK.

The modification of the licence allowed Able UK to increase the amount of waste it could deal with on Teesside, and the company planned to use this to allow it to dispose of the boats from the toxic ghost fleet. But in an extraordinary twist, it was revealed in court that the waste management licence does not cover ships.

E:mail correspondence from the Environment Agency to Able UK, sent on Sunday November 2 and obtained by Friends of the Earth, not only makes it clear that the modification to the licence cannot stand, but that the original waste licence does not cover the disposal of ships.

The Agency told Able: ‘The maximum quantity of waste which may be received at the site is 24,500 tonnes per annum and the WML does not permit the dismantling of ships.’

Friends of the Earth is urgently exploring legal avenues to force the UK Government to send these boats back.

‘We are pleased that the High Court has prevented Able UK from carrying out any work on these boats until our case is heard. In the meantime, the Environment Agency, having now confirmed the company’s waste management licence does not even cover ships, must secure their immediate return to the US. If the UK Government and its agencies don’t do this, then, these toxic time bombs could be sitting off our coast within days, threatening our environment indefinitely,’ said Friends of the Earth’s director Tony Juniper.

Following the High Court hearing, Able UK issued a statement saying that it understood why the Judge had made the decision that no work could be undertaken on the ships other than what was required to make them safe until the outstanding legal matters were resolved.

The company added that it was confident that its TERRC (Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre) facility was fully equipped to ensure that the vessels could be moored and kept in a safe condition until a new hearing which has been scheduled for December 8.

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