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17 Aug 07. Devon wreck’s arrival heralds new industry for Belfast. The front of the Napoli, the container ship that ran aground, spilling its cargo on to a Devon beach earlier this year, yesterday arrived at a dry dock in Belfast to be turned into scrap. Its arrival marks a new business line in the decommissioning of commercial and military vessels for Belfast’s Harland & Wolff shipyard – the first yard in the UK to be awarded a licence to conduct ship-breaking. It has teamed up with Golder Associates, a Canadian environmental waste management company. Martin Bjerregaard, Golder’s project manager, believes establishing decommissioning in the UK is an important environmental move. He describes what Golder does as looking after corporate orphans, whether dismantling redundant power stations, oil rigs, or now ships. The European Commission, together with the International Maritime Organisation and the Basle Convention, the UN agency that sets the rules for the cross-border traffic of hazardous cargoes, wants to stamp out the practice where European flagged vessels end up on beaches of the Indian subcontinent where they are stripped for scrap with scant regard for safety or environmental checks. The Indian subcontinent accounts for more than two-thirds of the world ship-breaking market. The worth of the market is unclear but it is thought that between 200 to 600 seagoing ships of over 2,000 deadweight tons are dismantled every year. The pace of decommissioning is expected to pick up in 2010, as the oil industry phases out the use of the less safe single-hull tankers. Belfast’s experience contrasts dramatically with the so-called “ghost ships” in Hartlepool, where ambitions to turn the north-east port into a ship-breaking centre have been frustrated. This first contract – H&W is also bidding to break up HMS Intrepid, the first Ministry of Defence vessel to be decommissioned under the new rules – puts it ahead of the pack. It is a welcome bit of good news for a yard – a symbol for the Northern Ireland economy, which has struggled to reinvent itself after abandoning conventional shipbuilding in the face of Asian competition. (Source: FT.com)

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