Greek authorities have begun removing dozens of abandoned cargo and passenger ships that have been lying semi-submerged or completely sunken – many for decades – in the Gulf of Elefsina, an industrial area of shipyards and factories near Greece's major port of Piraeus.
"It is a tragic situation that has become a threat to trade and the environment," explains Charalampos Gargaretas, chief executive officer of Elefsina Port Authority.
"We are speaking about 27 shipwrecks and potentially a dozen harmful and dangerous ships."
“The sea from the port of Piraeus to the island of Salamina that lies off of Elefsina is littered with 52 shipwrecks.
"You don't have to be a marine scientist to understand that these shipwrecks are an environmental time-bomb because many of them are still leaking petroleum products into the sea.”
The operation has though been wrought with difficulties.
Primarily, the ships tend to owned by individuals or companies registered in other countries, including the Marshall Islands, Britain and Honduras.
The authorities have therefore passed a law that allows the abandoned ships to be appropriated by the state.
Salvage companies are now removing the remains for free of charge in return for being able to sell the metal for scrap.
Another problem the Greek authorities have faced is a lack of licensed ship-breaking yards in the area, and opposition from locals who fear the environmental impact of large ships being demolished in their area.
"It is the sins of many years which we now have to finally face," says Gargaretas.
"We are trying to do it in a very short period of time, with huge bureaucratic and legal hurdles to overcome."