Contaminated U.S. Ships Cause a Stir in Britain

Controversy continues to swirl around four highly contaminated former U.S. Navy vessels — dubbed “ghost ships” — that are making their way across the Atlantic* to Hartlepool, England, where a British company has a contract to dismantle them. The first two toxin-tainted ships are being towed through the English Channel today, but they won’t be broken apart anytime soon. Last week, British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett effectively suspended dismantling of the ships, citing European Union and international law, and said the vessels would spend the winter in British waters but would then be sent back to the U.S. The highly publicized case of the ghost ships has brought attention to the potentially hazardous business of taking apart old ships; most ship-breaking facilities are located in developing nations in Asia, where environmental and worker protections are few.