The UK Environment Agency took swift action to stop the LNG tanker Margaret Hill from leaving the country on the suspicion it was due to head abroad for illegal dismantling.
The UK Environment Agency took swift action last week to stop the LNG tanker Margaret Hill from leaving the country on the suspicion it was due to head abroad for illegal dismantling. This is the first time these powers have been used to stop a ship from leaving a UK port.
The Environment Agency was made aware of concerns regarding the proposed sailing of the Margaret Hill, a 50,700 tonne liquid natural gas tanker which was docked in Southampton. Information suggested the ship, which is likely to contain hazardous materials such as asbestos, may be destined for dismantling at an undisclosed facility abroad.
Under international law, anyone intending to send a waste ship from England and Wales abroad for dismantling must first obtain permission from the Environment Agency and the equivalent regulators in the proposed destination country.
Waste ships containing hazardous materials can only be dismantled at properly authorised dismantling facilities in either the EU or an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country. They cannot be sent to dismantling facilities in countries outside the EU or OECD such as India or Bangladesh.
As the Environment Agency has not received nor approved any application to export the Margaret Hill, it has used its powers to put a temporary stop on the export of the ship to prevent any potential contravention of the rules on waste exports.
Liz Parkes, Head of Waste and Resource Management at the Environment Agency said, "Prompt investigation carried out by Environment Agency officers using the intelligence provided by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has ensured that this ship does not leave the UK until we are clear about what is happening to it.'
"We are continuing our discussions with those involved, including the finance company who recently took possession of the ship, to establish what is happening to it and to make them aware of the procedures that must be followed if they intend the ship to be exported for recycling.
"There are rules in place to ensure waste ships do not end up in developing countries, and cause damage to people and the environment. The Environment Agency will only give permission for a waste ship to be exported if it is going to an authorised recycling site in a country that wants to accept it and has necessary agreements in place."