The hulking remains of a cargo ship rise up through the water, listing to one side with a rusting hull exposed, its glory days of sailing the world's seas and oceans long gone. This is just one of dozens of abandoned cargo and passenger ships that lie semi-submerged or completely sunken in and near the Gulf of Elefsina, an industrial area of shipyards and factories near Greece's major port of Piraeus. Now Greek authorities have begun to remove the ships, some of which have been there for decades, saying they are both an environmental hazard and a danger to modern shipping, reports the AP. "We are speaking about 27 shipwrecks and potentially ... 12 harmful and dangerous ships," says Charalampos Gargaretas, CEO of Elefsina Port Authority. "It is the sins of many years which we now have come (to solve)."
From the port of Piraeus to the island of Salamina, the sea is littered with 52 shipwrecks—"an environmental bomb that degrades the environment of the nearby municipalities," says Dimosthenis Bakopoulos, head of Greece's Public Ports Authority, noting some of the ships still leak petroleum products into the sea. The owners vary from individuals to inheritors to companies registered in countries ranging from Greece to the Marshall Islands, Britain, and Honduras. Some have gone bankrupt, some are no longer traceable, so authorities have put in motion a process where the abandoned ships can be appropriated by the state. Salvage companies then take over the job of breaking up the ships—a job they undertake free of charge in return for being able to sell the metal remains for scrap—though some locals also fear the environmental impact of demolition.
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