Court rules Otapan should not have left NL

Outgoing environment minister Pieter van Geel should never have given the asbestos-laden ship Otapan a permit to leave Dutch waters, the Council of State ruled on Wednesday.

The Dutch government wanted the Otapan – moored in Amsterdam since 1999 – to be demolished in Turkey last year because it was too expensive to carry out the job at home.
However, the Turkish authorities refused to accept the ship when it emerged that it contained far more asbestos than registered on the export licence. The licence said the ship was carrying one tonne of asbestos while the true figure was twice revised upwards to 77 tonnes.
‘We are very pleased with this signal from the Council of State. The Netherlands may not export its environmental problems,’ Greenpeace Nederland director Liesbeth van Tongeren said. Greenpeace went to court to appeal against the granting of the original export licence.
It claimed the true amount of asbestos on board the ship was contained in an environment ministry report in 2002.
The Otapan, currently back in Amsterdam, is to be taken to a breaker’s yard in Rotterdam on Friday.
The Otapan is the second ship involving the Netherlands to hit international headlines recently. The Dutch government is one of a number of parties being held responsible for allowing the tanker Probo Koala to leave Dutch waters, despite fears it was carrying toxic waste.

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