‘Placard-waving cranks’ derail Able UK’s ship recycling bid

Able UK, the company at the centre of the so-called ‘US ghost ships’ saga, has been refused permission to extend the use of its site in north-east England to encompass ship recycling. Widespread exasperation has greeted the news, with one supporter of the scheme claiming that the views of ‘placard-waving cranks’ have been allowed to scupper plans for an environmentally important facility. The company itself is planning an appeal.

Able UK has received another setback in its bid to establish a major state of the art ship recycling facility in north-east England. Hartlepool Council has overwhelmingly rejected the company’s planning application to extend its Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre (TERRC) for the construction, repair, refurbishment and decommissioning of all types of ships, vessels and other craft.

The refusal reflected the committee’s concerns about the effects of the development on the environment, tourism, people’s health and wildlife habitats, despite officers of the council recommending approval and the Environment Agency and English nature organisations confirming that they had withdrawn their objections.  Able UK has already confirmed its intention to appeal against the decision, with Chairman and Chief Executive Peter Stephenson insisting that he remains committed to the goal of recycling ships at the TERRC. ‘We are doing everything in our power to get an early date for a public enquiry,’ he tells Recycling International.

Able UK has been decommissioning oil and gas platforms at the site for more than 20 years. However, Able UK leapt to international prominence in 2003 when it was awarded a £11 million (US$ 21 million) contract by the US government’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) for the remediation and recycling of 13 redundant vessels from the US Reserve Fleet; the first four vessels from the contract have been at the TERRC since late that year. Three UK vessels are also awaiting dismantling at the facility.

‘Entirely unjustified’
Mr Stephenson dismisses the local council planning committee decision as ‘entirely unjustified’. The TERRC is ‘undoubtedly one of the best sites in Europe to meet the growing demand for environmentally acceptable facilities for marine recycling, whether ships or other structures such as oil and gas platforms’, he claims.

Mr Stephenson adds: ‘No-one should be in any doubt about the scale of the damage caused. The delays in this project to date mean that around £70 million which would have been paid in wages to local people and would, of course, have gone into the local economy along with around £80 million (US$ 152.5 million) of business for local suppliers - has been lost, as well as £100 million worth of scrap steel which would have been recovered, much of it for our local steel industry. Those losses will continue at a total rate of over £6 million (US$ 11.4 million) per month because of the fact that we are forced to go to appeal.’

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