A SHIPBREAKING yard is bidding for work to dismantle more than 100 British vessels, bringing hundreds of jobs to the region.

Able UK, which is fighting to be allowed to dismantle the so-called ghost-ships - former US Navy vessels that were to be dismantled in Hartlepool, has also released details of plans to extend its Gray- thorpe yard.

Able wants to break up as many as 1,000 single-hulled oil tankers, more than 100 of which are British.

The company has also won the backing of an international environmental group.

The Department for the Environment has also backed the creation of a recycling yard to deal with the increased number of ships that need to be dismantled. Hartlepool is one of a number of venues it would consider for the super-yard. The ship recycling industry is expected to be worth £3.5bn by 2010.

Joe Puckett, of the environmental group Basel Action Network, has called for an end to the disposal of ships on the beaches of India, Bang-ladesh and other countries that have no proper environmental or health controls.

He said: "There are yards in Europe, Hartlepool for instance, which would love to have the business."

Peter Stephenson, Able UK chairman, said: "It is very interesting that so many different interests are now recognising that, unless facilities such as ours are given positive support, there will be a real crisis as the number of ships needing to be properly recycled continues to grow.

"I trust that other environmental organisations will join the Basel Action Network in recognising that now is the time to work with us."

Hartlepool Borough Council has begun public consultation about the development of the Graythorpe yard.

The authority is considering an application to build construct, repair and demolish ships and manufacture wind turbines.

Other plans for dock gates, railway track and industrial and warehouse buildings and a metal recycling facility will also be considered.

Hartlepool environmentalists and Friends of the Earth have campaigned against the Ghost Ships going to Hartlepool and the legal battle is continuing.