Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/314/11633
Death Ships, Courtesy Of The Free Market
THIRTEEN HIGHLY toxic ships are to be imported from the US to be dismantled in a deal struck by the waste disposal company AbleUK. They will get £10.8 million plus two almost complete oil tankers from the US government.
AbleUK plan to bring the ships in a 4,500-mile journey from the James River, Virginia, where the ships have been rotting, to Teesside. Environmental campaigners fear that these ships, riddled with asbestos, oil and other pollutants will cause a trail of environmental disaster across the Atlantic.
A US salvage expert told The Guardian: "some of the ships will break up before they reach Teesside. They're leaking and listing and that's just sitting at anchor in a river.
"If they get to sea, some will definitely start to break up. When they get to Teesside, they will be leaking even more... heavy oil [could] leak out and pollute the river there."
But the Environment Agency told The Guardian that "obstructing the deal would have put the UK in breach of free trade laws on waste," in other words market forces justify anything.
Never mind an environmental disaster that will cause the pollution of the sea and rivers in the North East for decades to come. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of free market capitalism and big money deals, which must be allowed to go ahead whatever the consequences.
Big business cannot be trusted to deal with such delicate matters as disposal of highly toxic waste. Companies such as AbleUK (who stand to be fined $1,350 for each day the ships remain where there are, once the contract is signed) only have one consideration - profit.
Teesside council does have the power to stop AbleUK bringing these ships to Britain. Trade unions and the local community should put pressure on them to do this.
Apparently there are mixed feelings on Teesside. Some people are outraged at plans to import this toxic waste.
Others think that it will bring much-needed jobs to the area.
Teesside is a part of the country that has suffered massively from de-industrialisation and the collapse of manufacturing industry. But rather than being given the dirty end of the stick, it needs real state investment to create long-lasting jobs and the regeneration of the region.
An environmental catastrophe is threatened if this polluting 'ghost' fleet is allowed to be dragged half way around the world.
Former US President Clinton was forced to stop US waste going to Africa - why are New Labour letting it come to Britain?
The US government should take responsibility for dismantling these ships in a safe and controlled way in the port where they already stand. US workers involved in this process should be given maximum health and safety protection.
In The Socialist 13 September 2003: