US asbestos bound for Turkey

May 5, 1993

US asbestos bound for Turkey

ISTANBUL — The crew of Greenpeace sailing boat Vega boarded the famous luxury liner SS United States on April 23 to protest against plans to strip her of more than 15,000 square metres of deadly asbestos and to demand her immediate return to the country of origin.

Five climbers hung a 120-metre banner on her port side which read, "Toxic Waste Return To Sender" in English and Turkish.

"Once again big business in the industrialised world is saving money by hiding its problems abroad, this time threatening both the lives of Turkey's shipping workers and its environment", said Roberto Ferrigno, toxic trade campaigner from Greenpeace International.

The United States was decommissioned in 1971 and lay idle in Richmond, Virginia, until she was bought by US-based Marmara Marine Inc last year. Greenpeace estimates that under US procedures the asbestos removal would have cost $120 million. There is estimated to be more asbestos on board the SS United States than on any other merchant ship in the world.

Asbestos has been linked to cancer of the chest and abdomen, and a lung-scarring disease called asbestosis. In the US alone it's estimated that more than 400,000 people will die from asbestos-related diseases in the next 20 years.

The Greenpeace action coincided with a meeting of technical experts from all Mediterranean states held in Italy to discuss a draft protocol which could result in the banning of hazardous waste transfers from developed countries to developing countries in the region.

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