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Cablegate: Turkey: After Fours Years, the Status of the Toxic

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

141011Z Sep 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 005168

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/SE, EUR/PCI, OES/PCI, OES/ETC, OES/SAT,
NEA/PPR
PLEASE PASS USDA/FOREST SERVICE, EPA/OIA


E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TBIO TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: AFTER FOURS YEARS, THE STATUS OF THE TOXIC
CARGO OF THE MV ULLA HAS BEEN SOLVED - IT SANK


1. SUMMARY: After nearly four years in which Turkish
officials avoided confronting the problem, the Spanish ship
MV Ulla, moored in Iskenderun harbor and loaded with 2.2
tons of ash laden with toxic heavy metals, sank just days
before it was scheduled to depart for Spain. Environmental
NGOs' led by Greenpeace and the captain of the ship had
warned Turkish authorities that the risk of the ship sinking
was were very high. Following the sinking, Turkey's
Forestry and Environment Ministry banned fishing in the area
and is analyzing the damage to prepare for removing the
toxic waste and mitigating environmental damage. Who will
pay has not been decided. End Summary.

A LONG PROCESS THAT DEGRADES THE VESSEL
---------------------------------------

2. The Spanish cargo ship, MV ULLA, was stuck in legal
limbo for four years as Spain and Turkey argued over who
should take responsibility for the hazardous cargo and local
Turkish officials insisted on payment for port services -
and according to the press, some bribes. The long delay
meant that the ship was increasingly unsafe. It finally sank
this week in the Turkish Mediterranean port of Iskenderun,
with its 2.2 tons of toxic fly ash cargo.

3. The issue started in 2000 when MV ULLA, loaded with fly
ash from Spanish coal-fired power plants, arrived at
Turkey's Mediterranean port of Iskenderun after Algeria
turned away the cargo, which was intended as filler in a
construction project. Scientific analysis of the cargo
revealed that the waste contained levels of chromium
exceeding the legal standards set by Turkish law.
Importation of such hazardous waste in Turkey is banned
under the Basel Convention, which governs - and severely
restricts - transboundary movements of hazardous wastes.

4. Turkish officials fined the ship and asked Spain to take
back "MV ULLA" and the hazardous waste on board. Turkey
also asked the assistance of the Basel Convention
Secretariat to find a solution for this issue. To avoid any

SIPDIS
damage to the sea and coastal environment, the Turkish
Environment Ministry (MOEF) asked the local court to keep
the ship in the port of Iskenderun until the Spanish
government agreed to accept the ship. In the meantime the
Turkish ship agent Mavi Sea Transportation Co. asked the
court to sequester the ship until it received compensation
for its losses.

COULD IT BE A SABOTAGE, ASKS THE TURKISH MINISTER
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. As news of the September 6 sinking hit the press,
Environment and Forestry Minister Osman Pepe said that Spain
and Turkey had recently reached an agreement that would have
returned the vessel to Spain in just a few days. He voiced
his suspicion that because the ship sank right before its
scheduled departure, it might have been the result of
sabotage. The press reported that Pepe asked Spain to pay
compensation for the damage and the clean-up. According to
recent press articles, Spanish officials offered help to
Turkey to cope with the pollution.

6. The Deputy Governor of Hatay (the province where
Iskenderun is located) Cafer Odabasi rejected the
allegations for of sabotage on the grounds that the sinking
of the vessel was normal after staying four years at sea.
The ship's captain said he had warned authorities over three
months ago of the dangerous situation, and a Greenpeace
official told us the group had repeatedly warned officials
about the degraded state of the vessel, and that it posed an
immediate risk of marine contamination.

RESULT: THE MARINE LIFE THAT SUFFERS
------------------------------------

7. The extend extentof the damage to the local environment
and the cost of the clean up are not known. The ship is
completely submerged, but it is not known whether the ship
is broken up and to what extent the cargo has escaped.

8. Environmental NGOs, headed by Greenpeace Mediterranean,
Environment Protection Association, and Eastern
Mediterranean Environment Associations, protested the slow
bureaucracy and diplomatic actions and requested that the
area to be cleaned-up immediately through cooperation with
Spanish authorities. Greenpeace Mediterranean Toxic Wastes
Campaign Director Banu Dokmecibasi said both Turkish and
Spanish governments were warned about the bad conditions
under which the vessel was waiting and the possibility of
sinking. She said the governments did not consider this a
serious issue.

9. A Turkish MFA official told Embassy Environmental
Specialist that it became the responsibility of the MOEF
after the vessel sank. The official said that a crisis desk
had been established in the MOEF in order to carry out the
necessary biological and chemical analysis and on-site
investigations. The extent of the harm will be identified
and the appropriate mitigation measures will then be
determined on the basis of the findings. The official also
said MOEF banned fishing and water sports around the sunken
vessel.

10. Around 10,000 people in the region who depend on the
sea to make a living will suffer the immediate impact of the
accident. The long-range damage to the environment and
human health are not known. Greenpeace Mediterranean Toxic
Wastes Campaign Director Banu Dokmecibasi said fly ash
contained chromium (Cr+6), which is a heavy metal that
causes cancer and harms marine life. The press reported
that 80 years would be needed to erase all traces of damage
to the environment.

IS TURKEY SEEN AS THE TOXIC WASTE DISPOSAL POINT?
--------------------------------------------- ----

11. COMMENT: MV ULLA is not the only toxic waste problem
that GOT is struggling with. Embassy's Regional
Environmental Office reported the cases of Italian toxic
barrels on the Black Sea shores and Sea Beirut several times
in the past. Unfortunately, no solid steps to solve these
problems can be reported at the moment. End comment.
EDELMAN

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