09 May 2006 # ANI

New Delhi: A former cruise liner with hundreds of tons of asbestos and other toxic material on board is heading for the Alang ship yard in Gujarat, Greenpeace said on Tuesday, threatening a repeat of a controversy over the French Le Clemenceau.
In February, the French government decided to recall the Le Clemenceau, a mothballed aircraft carrier containing tons of asbestos, after Greenpeace said scrapping it in India would pose a risk to the health thousands of workers at Alang.

A Supreme Court order blocked the ship from entering Indian waters, while Greenpeace activists staged several protests.

Greenpeace however, said New Delhi had not learned a “single lesson” from the Le Clemenceau saga.

The 46,000-tonne Blue Lady, formerly the SS Norway, was on its way to the Alang yard in Gujarat from Malaysia, it said.

“What is India doing? Actually nothing…nothing, nothing, nothing…but a big zero. There is no political initiative in India, there is no political debate, no political dialogue on the issue. Again I repeat, the Indian government has not learnt their lessons from Clemenceau. There is lack of co-ordination,” Greenpeace campaigner Ramapati Kumar told a news conference in New Delhi.

In a report in December, Greenpeace said thousands of workers involved in the ship-breaking industry in countries such as India, China and Pakistan had probably died over the past two decades in accidents or exposure to toxic waste.

The 315-metres long Blue Lady contains more than 900 tons of asbestos and heavy metals, Greenpeace said.

“This ship has been refused by Bangladesh earlier. It contains 900 to 1500 tones of asbestos and a lot of other toxic material and again it is not coming on its own power, but is being tugged by power boats,” Kumar said.

Environment ministry officials have however, not given any reaction over the latest controversy.

The Blue Lady, which entered service in 1962, was owned by Malaysia’s Star Cruises Ltd. A boiler room explosion in May 2003 killed seven crew on board the cruise liner.