Cairo/Paris - Egypt continued to hold the French decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau on Friday, demanding documentation proving the ship was not carrying dangerous materials.
A source at the Egyptian ministry of state for environmental affairs said the ship, destined for India where it was to be scrapped, was blocked because it had not provided documentation to confirm that it did not contain hazardous wastes.
The source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the ship should have obtained the official documents from its place of origin and destination, that is France and India.
'Contacts were made with the navigation company operating the ship to provide such documents but it has not provided them until yesterday (January 12), so Egypt was able to block its passage under the Basel Convention,' the source said.
The source said that the environment ministry coordinated with the Suez Canal Authority and the Armed Forces after contacts with the French Embassy to ensure blocking the ship's entry.
A source at the canal authority was quoted in the Friday issue of the Egyptian state-owned daily al-Gomhoriya as saying that the authority had asked the company operating the ship to provide a certificate verifying the ship was environmentally safe.
Meanwhile criticism of the French government for sending the ship to a ship-breaking yard in India grew in Paris.
Yann Wehrling, head of France's Green Party, said Friday that it was 'scandalous' to endanger the health of Indian workers who would be forced to deal with asbestos-contaminated materials on the ship.
'We should be doing this ourselves,' Wehrling told the news station i-tv. 'But we send it elsewhere to save money while knowing very well that the people who will work on this aircraft carrier will not have the necessary safety measures.'
The Clemenceau, which left Toulon harbour on December 31, was blocked on Thursday from entering the Suez Canal by Egyptian officials, who are demanding that the French government furnish the necessary documents, as mandated by the Basel Convention, to confirm that the ship is not carrying dangerous materials.
The convention is a treaty addressing cleaner production, hazardous waste minimisation and controls movement of such wastes.
Earlier Thursday, two activists from the environmental group Greenpeace boarded the Clemenceau some 50 nautical miles off the coast of Egypt and demanded that Cairo refuse passage to the ship.
Greenpeace activists claim the Clemenceau carries high levels of carcinogenic asbestos and other hazardous waste and that the shipyard at Alang in the western Indian state of Gujarat is not equipped to handle such high levels of toxic waste.
The French defence ministry said that 45 tons of asbestos- contaminated materials remain aboard the Clemenceau. Some 115 tons of asbestos had been removed before the ship set sail for India.
However, Greenpeace and other environmental groups claim these figures are not accurate.