Friends of the Earth International
US TOXIC GHOST FLEET: UK ENVIRONMENT
AGENCY IN COURT
support the campaign to send the ships
London (UK), November 5, 2003 -- Friends
of the Earth is today taking the final steps
to prevent a fleet of toxic US navy vessels
from arriving to the UK for dismantling.
Friends of the Earth is today (Wednesday 5th
November 10.30am UK time) asking the High
Court in London to quash a modification to a
waste management licence granted to the
company 'Able UK' allowing it to dispose of
ships from the so-called US 'ghost
The UK Environment Agency has written to
Friends of the Earth stating that it will not
resist the application.
"Following our legal action, the
Environment Agency has finally acknowledged
that the licences are 'invalid'. These
licences must now be formally revoked, and
the UK Government must act to force these
toxic ships to be returned to the United
States where they can be disposed of safely,"
said Friends of the Earth International vice-
chair Tony Juniper.
The UK Environment Agency modified the
'Able UK' licence in September 2003, but last
week announced that the modification was
'invalid' after Friends of the Earth started
Friends of the Earth has argued throughout
that the necessary permissions for the
licence modification have not been in place,
and for this reason the modification must now
be formally revoked or quashed.
Four ships, classified as toxic waste due
to the high levels of asbestos and non-liquid
PCBs contained in their structure, are
expected to arrive in UK waters within the
next few days.
Three individuals from Teesside (UK) are
also taking legal action against the UK
Government quango , calling for an
immediate injunction to prevent dismantling
work being carried out on the ships.
Friends of the Earth International is the
world's largest grassroots environmental
federation with 68 national member groups in
as many countries and around one million
For More information
call in London (UK) Press Office Friends
of the Earth (England, Wales, and Northern
Ireland) +44-207566 1649
 The Canisteo and Caloosahatchee each
contains 34.1 tonnes of non-liquid PCBs and
61 tonnes of asbestos; the Compass Island
contains 47.3 tonnes of non-liquid PCBs and
252 tonnes of asbestos; the Canopus contains
286 tonnes of non-liquid PCBs and 252 of
 The three Hartlepool residents are
represented by Phil Shiner of Public Interest
Lawyers calling for an immediate injunction
to prevent dismantling work being carried out
on the ships on the basis that the
Environment Agency did not take into account
the `proximity principle' that requires waste
to be treated where it arises. [Contact Phil
Shiner on +44-121 212 1868].
1. Friends of the Earth returns to the
High Court on Weds 5 Nov at 10:30 to call for
a Judicial Review of the Environment Agency?s
decision to modify a waste management license
held by Able UK. Interviewees will be
available - contact FoE media team on
2. Four Toxic Ships are currently on their
way to Hartlepool on Teeside (UK) -being
towed by tugs, travelling from the James
River, Virginia, US east towards waters off
the south west of England. Given that the
ships do not have permission to be scrapped
in Hartlepool, there is a real risk that that
the ships could be left circling or at anchor
in British waters, exposed to winter
3. The first two ships (Caloosahatchee and
Canisteo) are due to arrive in UK waters on
Thurs 6 Nov - off the south west coast of
Cornwall. Compass Island and the Canopus are
approximately 7 days behind.
4. As far as Friends of the Earth are
aware the Environment Agency has 'requested'
that the ships return to America but has not
yet legally required them to do so.
5. Friends of the Earth has written to
Environment Minister Elliot Morley asking him
to make it clear that toxic ships from the US
ghost fleet must not enter UK waters and to
inform Able and MARAD that they will not be
allowed to enter.
6. MARAD - (Marine Administration
Department) - the US Government Department
that owns the ships - is refusing to
acknowledge the Environment Agency's
-request- that the ships turn back. Friends
of the Earth have repeatedly written to MARAD
informing them of absence of permissions and
the regulatory omissions. MARAD have not
responded to any of our letters.
7. Have the ships got legal permission to
enter UK waters - ' Boats and ships don't
need permission toenter UK waters ' However,
the fleet of toxic ships are formally
classified as an international 'waste'
shipment and need permission
- Powers to protect UK waters from marine
pollution incidents are granted to SOSREP
(Secretary of State's Representative - Robin
Middleton) who represents Alistair Darling
(Secretary of State for Transport). SOSREP
has powers to turn the ships back and to
order them out of British waters if he
considers that they pose a pollution
8. Clear view from UK Government about
toxic ships entering UK waters -
Neither the following has been able to give
Friends of the Earth an answer:
' The Maritime Coastguard Agency (part of
the UK Department for Transport) has said it
is a matter for the Environment Agency
' Environment Agency ' has said it is a
matter for Maritime Coastguard Agency
6. Have the ships got permission to dock
i) Trans Frontier Shipment of Waste
Nofitification (TFS) - NO LONGER 'VALID'
- A TFS allows waste to be shipped around
the world or imported into the UK
- The Environment Agency has said the TFS is
no longer 'valid' BUT, so far as we know,
have not yet formally revoked it
- Without a valid TFS the toxic ships are
unable lawfully to enter the UK
- it is not clear what this means in terms
of entering UK waters.
- Powers to bring the ships into port is
through the Environment Agency and the Port
ii) 'Modified' Waste Management Licence -
NO LONGER 'VALID'
- Able UK has an existing licence to deal
with toxic waste but not with the toxic
fleet. The Waste Management Licence was
modified by the Environment Agency to allow
Able to deal with the disposal of the US
ships. However, the modification was
unlawfully granted and therefore no longer
stands. That was the subject of Friends of
the Earth's legal challenge.
- The Environment Agency has said the
modified Waste Management Licence is no
longer 'valid' BUT the Agency have not yet
formally revoked it.
iii) What happens now?
- Decision needs to be taken on what
happens to 4 ships already en route to
- Able UK now needs to reapply for a fresh
WML and resolve outstanding regulatory
- MARAD needs to apply for a new TFS when
all the permissions are in place.
- US environmental pressure group, Basel
Action Network, supports Friends of the
Earth's call to send the ships back to
America, assuming certain conditions (no
tandem towing, under escort, if weather
conditions bad over wintered in a US naval
base somewhere in Europe).
- Hartlepool District Council voted on
November 4 at an emergency full council
meeting to call on UK Secretary of State for
Transport Alistair Darling to send the ships
back to the US.
For More information call in London
Press Office +44-207566 1649