- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

GENEVA Ministers and senior officials from more than 150 countries agreed on a set of global guidelines here late yesterday that will enhance the breakup of obsolete ships in a more eco-friendly way, particularly in Asian nations.
Environmental groups and specialized U.N. agencies for years have campaigned to limit the export of hazardous waste, such as asbestos, PCBs, heavy metals and other poisonous substances, contained on obsolete ships exported for dismantling mainly to poor Asian nations.
The new guidelines are "a new milestone in the battle to stop pollution of beaches in Asia and Turkey," said Martin Besieux, toxins expert with the environmental group Greenpeace International.
More than 90 percent of ship-scrapping worldwide in tonnage takes place in beaches in Bangladesh (Chittagong), India (Alang), Pakistan (Gaddani estate in Baluchistan) and in China and Turkey, according to U.N. reports.
"The guidelines we believe are strong enough for ships to have contaminants removed before they are exported for dismantling," said Jim Pluckett of the Seattle environmental group Basel Action Network.
"They will help get the hazardous waste off the beaches," Mr. Pluckett said.
The guidelines are the result of three years of intensive negotiations among the shipping industry, specialized U.N. agencies and environmental groups.
International law bans the export of hazardous waste from industrialized countries to developing nations.
Experts say the new guidelines will help remove many of the safety, health and environmental hazards associated with the scrapping of obsolete ships.
The guidelines stipulate:
Hazardous wastes and materials should be removed from the ship as much as possible before the ship's last voyage so that a minimal amount of the material will have to be dealt with during the breaking process.
Before to cutting, the ship should be cleared of all residual materials. This may be carried out before arrival or at a cleaning station at the facility
Safe conditions must be provided for the removal of toxic materials.
The guidelines are expected to be formally adopted near the end of the session tomorrow or Friday, delegates said.


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