High Court rules against US 'ghost ship' recycler

Hearings in December to determine the validity of permits held by Able UK - the Hartlepool company at the centre of the US ghost ships row - have come out against the company.

Able UK has a contract to recycle 13 obsolete US military vessels, but the plans have stalled because the necessary permits are not in place (ENDS Report 346, pp 28-30 ).

On 8 December, the High Court ruled that the Environment Agency's decision to grant a modification to Able's licence was unlawful and that it must be quashed. The case was brought by Friends of the Earth. The Agency had already agreed that the modification was unlawful.

In a second High Court hearing, on 15 December, it was determined that Able's planning consent did not allow for the recycling of ships, only "marine structures". This case was brought against Hartlepool Borough Council by three local residents.

Able UK says it intends to seek leave to appeal the ruling on the planning consent. It says it had a clear understanding with the former Teesside Development Corporation - which issued the planning consent - that the term marine structures was the best and most comprehensive term to use.

Managing director Peter Stephenson said the company still hopes to begin work on the four US vessels already moored at its facility next spring.

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