A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Those 'Ghost Ships'..... another Brent Spar?

Now, I wonder if one of those so-called 'Ghost Ships' from America (BBC News Online) just happens to be named 'The Brent Spar'! Remember that debacle - where the ever self-righteous environmentalists got it badly wrong. I have a feeling we are about to experience another mess. But it isn't funny - we lose much-needed jobs and revenue, and in a region once a proud hub of the ship-building and ship-dismantling industries.

Let's just think the situation through calmy and logically:

(a) Old ships exist - sadly, they are not 'ghosts', and they will not conveniently fade away into the ether; old ships thus need to be dismantled safely, and, where possible, the material re-cycled efficiently;
(b) Somebody has to do the job;
(c) Companies, as with everything else, bid for the job in the global market place;
(d) Able UK wins the bid, and it brings the work to the UK, where strict environmental laws ensure that the dismantling will be achieved safely; they also bring new jobs to a depressed region;
(e) Able UK, along with a number of other companies in the region, do this work regularly, and they state that there is nothing special about these particular ships. Indeed, if a company won a contract to build a new ship, it would also have to handle some of the same materials;
(f) What are the alternatives? Send the ships to the developing world (some countries would take on the job without a second thought), where there is often a notorious lack of environmental concern and legal safeguards for the workers involved? Great idea, I don't think! Or, send them to another advanced country and lose the jobs and work from the UK? Great idea again. Let's simply lie down in the face of serious competition and just give up. Or, having arrived in the UK, send the ships back to America, so that they might possibly break up naturally in the winter seas and pollute the oceans. Now that is redolent of the Brent Spar!
(g) Or, make sure all legal permits are in place, and get on with the job safely and efficiently. In the end, nobody would even notice.

The truth is that some environmentalists (remember there are many shades of green) are not living in the real world and they are starting to be a serious threat to the UK economy. I wonder how much of the protest about these particular ships is because they are (Heaven forbid!) American and were once used to service the American navy? Our rationality about America has now gone out to march with the barmy brigade.

I think we should be proud that a company here won the contract and that the task is likely to be well done in the UK. I say, keep the ships and send back the protesters.

First posted yesterday. Now revised and corrected after the bottle of claret. Philip.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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