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Alang Shipyard Seeking Outside Firm for Asbestos Removal

Owners of India's Alang ship breaking yard are looking into hiring an outside firm to conduct asbestos removal in an attempt to improve their image among environmental groups and increase business which has declined following negative reports about working conditions and disputes with other countries.

The move could save the lives of workers by reducing their exposure to toxic materials but thus far asbestos is the only material among lead, PCBs and others that would normally require special handling procedures elsewhere.

The move is aimed at generating revenue that has been lost to competing shipyards in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as a drop in steel prices. Last year the shipyard was engaged in a number of high profile legal battles that brought attention to the lack of worker protection around toxic materials especially asbestos.

At the moment Alang officials claim that nearly 40 ships are waiting offshore to be dismantled with just over half of those vessels gaining government approval for work to begin. Company officials would not disclose when or if an asbestos contractor will be selected but more news is expected in early 2008.