Wednesday, March 22, 2006

UK's warship just keeps on killing

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away, the old saying goes, but a veteran of the UK's Falkland conflict, the ship Sir Geraint, will go on killing even after death. No gentle fade for this asbestos-laden toxic scrap heap.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Its dismantling in Pakistan is proceeding in violation of an international agreement banning trade of hazardous wastes to developing countries. But Tony Blair's government turned a blind eye (and the Pakistani government could care less):
The ship was allowed to sail despite suspicions that it may be sent to a scrapyard on the subcontinent. Critics say the shipyard workers are poorly protected against asbestos and other harmful substances.
When the Ministry of Defence sold Sir Geraint to Babcock Support Services, in January last year, it secured a promise that it would not be sent for scrapping in the subcontinent.

Babcock included the same clause when it sold the vessel to Regency Projects, which buys ships and sells them to breakers overseas.

Late last year, when the ship, which had been renamed Sir G, prepared to leave British waters, the Environment Agency, responsible for monitoring where ships are scrapped, suspected it could be destined for the subcontinent.

It allowed Sir G to sail after receiving assurances that it would not be dismantled.

However, when the ship reached Pakistan it was sold to Bismilla Maritime Breakers and the dismantling began. (The Telegraph)
In typical British fashion, it was all put down to an unfortunate misunderstanding. Nobody's fault. It won't happen again. The UK Ministry of Defense and the Environment Agency are regretful but blameless.

I'm sure the Pakistani laborers who endanger themselves for crap wages will understand. I'm not sure about their surviving wives, parents and children, though.