'Ghost ships' contract scrapped
The first of four ships arrived on Teesside in November 2003. Nine of the so-called US naval "ghost ships" will not be recycled at a Teesside shipyard. Able UK won a controversial contract with the US government to dismantle up to 13 vessels at its Hartlepool yard, and four ships arrived in late 2003. But delays caused by environmental concerns prevented the others leaving Virginia for the Graythorp facility, and terms have now been renegotiated. The firm said it was disappointed that additional work had been lost. For local people the continued presence of the four ghost ships is cause for uncertainty and concern pending the appeal outcome
Fiona Hall, Lib Dem MEP for the North East Peter Stephenson, chairman of Able UK, said: "We are pleased that we have been able to agree with the United States Department of Transportation Maritime Administration that our contract for the recycling of the four vessels continues. "It is disappointing that, after all the efforts of so many people, the opportunity to bring the additional work, which would have been generated through the other nine vessels, has been lost due to the delay." Able UK originally signed a deal to dismantle 13 ships at its dry dock facility. The first of the ghost ships arrived on the River Tees in November 2003 but planning and legal hurdles delayed the remaining nine vessels, currently moored in the James River in Virginia, leaving for the UK.
The plan has been dogged by debate over the environmental impact it will have on the surrounding area and wildlife, with campaigners concerned about potentially toxic waste from the ageing navy ships. Last year, Hartlepool councillors threw out planning applications by Able UK to decommission all the vessels at the Graythorp yard. Able UK also revealed that it had been dealt another blow and lost the opportunity to recycle a redundant British Navy vessel , HMS Intrepid, because of the delays in winning planning permission. But Mr Stephenson said the firm would be appealing against the council's decision. Fiona Hall, Lib Dem MEP for the North East, said: "It is good news that further ships will not be arriving in Hartlepool.
"But for local people the continued presence of the four ghost ships is cause for uncertainty and concern pending the appeal outcome."