India's Supreme Court on Monday ordered local authorities to prepare a report on the feasibility of breaking up an aging cruise liner suspected of containing toxic materials that could pollute India's waters and sicken ship-breaking workers.
The Blue Lady, formerly the S.S. France, has been anchored off the Alang ship-breaking yard in the state of Gujarat since August awaiting a court ruling on whether it could be dismantled in India.
On Monday the court deferred the decision, giving the Gujarat Pollution Control Board one month to find out if it is possible to dismantle the ship without causing environmental damage. It also warned ship breakers not to start work until receiving clearance from the court.
Environmental groups charge that asbestos-containing ships seriously harm workers in the yard, and accuse Western nations of dumping their poisons in developing countries, where regulations are often lax or nonexistent.
The ship breakers are pressing to go ahead with the work, saying environmental regulations will result in India losing its lead in the industry to countries like Bangladesh, reports AP.
The luxury liner about the height of an 11-story building is thought to be carrying an estimated 900 tons (990 U.S. tons) of asbestos.
The ship was earlier turned away from Bangladesh because of environmental concerns.
Similar protests in February led French authorities to cancel the dismantling of the decommissioned French aircraft carrier Clemenceau in India after revelations that it contained asbestos and other toxic chemicals.