From: Associated Press
Published July 21, 2005 12:00 AM

'Ghost Fleet' Could Be Scrapped in Mexico, Turkey

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia — The 55 hulks left in the James River "Ghost Fleet" could be destined for recycling yards in Turkey and Mexico under a deal being pursued by the federal government.


The proposal, however, could encounter opposition from environmentalists who have fought the export of what they consider the hazards posed by the retired military vessels.


The money-strapped U.S. Maritime Administration has been struggling to rid fleets of languishing ships in Virginia, Texas and California by a September 2006 deadline set by Congress. The Texas and California reserves total 77 ships.


The latest proposal dealing with the James River Reserve Fleet is from Environmental Recycling Systems, a shipyard in Turkey coordinating the plan.


The Turkey-Mexico proposal has been in the bidding process for about two years, the Daily Press of Newport News reported Wednesday.


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Environmental Recycling Systems is competing with other shipyards, and any deal needs approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, which would have to waive federal laws that forbid exporting hazardous waste.


"We want to abide by the highest standards," said Denny Vaughan, senior partner with Environmental Recycling Systems.


The ships contain fuel, asbestos, mercury, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.


Vaughan said MARAD and the EPA are doing their best to remove the ships, despite criticism from residents and officials.


"It's a slow process, but I believe they're doing everything within their power to execute the contracts as soon as they can," he said.


A Maritime Administration official did not immediately return a message Wednesday from The Associated Press.


Environmental Recycling Systems is a shipyard near the Aegean Sea in Aliaga, Turkey, and has a coalition of 29 additional yards interested in taking American ships. Dismantling ships in developing countries is cheaper because of lower labor costs and high demand for the ships' metal, boilers and generators, said Vaughan, a retired Navy rear admiral.


Vaughan said that shipyards in Turkey and Mexico should not be compared to those in India and Bangladesh, where concerns about deplorable work and environmental conditions in the 1990s caused a global outcry.


Shipyard workers for Environmental Recycling Systems wear protective clothing, including steel-tipped shoes and hardhats, and hazardous materials will be handled according to EPA standards, Vaughan said.


Source: Associated Press


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