South Asia still the preferred end of life location says NGO Shipbreaking Platform

South Asia still the preferred end of life location says NGO Shipbreaking Platform. Photo: NGO Shipbreaking Platform
South Asia still the preferred end of life location says NGO Shipbreaking Platform. Photo: NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has released a complete list of all ship owners and their ships sold for breaking last year.

Out of a total of 1026 ships dismantled globally in 2014, 641 – representing 74% of the total gross tonnage (GT) scrapped – were sold to substandard facilities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh where ships are dismantled directly on tidal beaches. None of the South Asian yards comply with international standards for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling.

End-of-life ships contain toxic materials such as asbestos, heavy metals, PCBs, oil residues and organic waste within their structures – these pollutants can not be contained or safely removed on a tidal beach. The demolition of the largest movable man-made structures is hazardous and must be conducted in a controlled manner using adequate infrastructure such as cranes as well as necessary health and safety provisions – in 2014 the Platform reported 23 deaths and 66 severe injuries due to accidents such as explosions, workers crushed under steel plates and falling from heights on the South Asian beaches.

“South Asia is still the preferred dumping ground for most ship owners as environmental, safety and labour rights standards are poorly enforced there,” said Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Ship owners sell their ships to the beaching yards for considerably greater profit than the price they could obtain by cooperating with modern ship recycling facilities. It is shameful for the shipping industry that so many ship owners choose to close their eyes to the realities on-the-ground in South Asia and do not to face up to their responsibility and demand clean, safe and just ship recycling.”

German ship owner Ernst Komrowski tops the list of the worst global dumpers with 14 end-of-life vessels sold to the beaches – all of these were formerly part of the Maersk fleet and had been on a long-term charter with the Danish container ship giant, which oppositely to Komrowski has a strict ship recycling policy for its own vessels. Second ranks South Korea’s largest container ship owner Hanjin Shipping with 11 ships. Being based in a leading ship building country and with a strong environmental profile, Hanjin should also be aware of issues related to safe and clean recycling, still, they chose profit over people and the environment. Third ranks repeat offender Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) – the second largest container ship operator in the world whose shipbreaking activities in India have already cost the life of six workers in 2009 when a fire broke out on the MSC Jessica. Despite recurrent public criticism of MSC’s deplorable management of their end-of-life fleet, MSC has not developed a ship recycling policy that can prevent such tragic accidents. Hanjin and MSC’s bad practice stands in sharp contrast to that of their competitors Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, two leading containership companies that have committed themselves to the recycling of their end-of-life vessels in modern facilities off the beach. Number four amongst the worst dumpers is Petrobras with six end-of-life vessels sold to South Asia: the Brazilian oil giant is the largest company of the Southern Hemisphere, but in contrast to other major oil and gas companies unwilling to recycle its old tankers properly.

Komrowski, Hanjin, MSC and Petrobras are followed by a range of companies which have all sold five end-of-life vessels to the beaches, amongst them well-know dumpers such as Conti, one of the largest German ship owners offering private investment in ships, G-Bulk and Danaos from Greece and Ignazio Messina from Italy. Also American TBS International, Singapore-based Pacific International and Taiwanese owner Yang Ming each sold five ships to the beaches in South Asia.

In 2014, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform investigated upon which vessels accidents have occurred and informed the owners, who had unscrupulously sold these ships to a substandard yard, about the deaths and severe injuries. Whilst most of these owners, including German Johann M.K. Blumenthal and Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) have ignored the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and seemingly feel no responsibility, Norwegian Teekay expressed gratitude for having been made aware of an explosion on one of their beached tankers in Bangladesh and committed to setting much higher standards when choosing future end-of-life destinations.

“It is time for the global leaders in shipping to commit to clean and safe ship recycling,” says Patrizia Heidegger. “Every single ship owner can do something: instead of selling to intermediaries and losing leverage on the fate of their vessel, ship owners can talk to ship recycling experts and negotiate directly with modern ship recycling facilities. Teekay and Hapag-Lloyd’s decision last year to adopt responsible ship recycling policies shows that ship owners can make alternative choices”, says Heidegger.
The Platform advises ship owners on what they can do to ensure sustainable end-of-life policies for their fleet and currently counts 13 major ship owners which practice clean and safe ship recycling in modern facilities off the beach.

The European Union has a particular responsibility to act – 34% of the gross tonnage broken in South Asia last year was European. Amongst the ships dismantled in 2014, 285 were either owned by a European company or flying the flag of an EU Member State. Two thirds of these European ships – 182 ships, including many having primarily operated in European waters – were beached. Whilst large European shipping nations such as Greece and Germany unsurprisingly top the list of 2014 worst dumping countries, selling respectively 70 and 41 large oceangoing vessels to South Asian breakers, they also top the list of ship-owning countries which sell almost exclusively to South Asian breakers, rather than to modern recyclers. Cyprus owners sold a record high 92% of their old ships to substandard yards in South Asia, German owners as much as 87% and Greek owners 76%. Comparatively, Chinese owners, including those based in Hong Kong, only sold 39% of their end-of-life vessels to beaching facilities in South Asia. China is the only major shipping nation in the world building up domestic capacity and working towards self-sufficiency in the management of its end-of-life fleet.

Despite the new EU Ship Recycling Regulation, which entered into force on 30 December 2013 and which out-rules the use of the beaching method to dismantle EU-flagged vessels, 41 ships registered under the flags of EU Member states Malta, Italy, Cyprus, UK and Greece hit the beaches in 2014. 15 additional ships changed their flag from an EU to a non-EU flag just weeks before reaching South Asia. As in previous years, particular flags of convenience such as Saint Kitts and Nevis (64 ships), Comoros (39 ships), Tuvalu (24 ships), Tanzania (20 ships) and Togo (20 ships) that are less favoured during operational use, were excessively popular flags for the end-of-life ships broken in South Asia. Any attempt to regulate ship recycling based only on flag state responsibility will have little impact due to the extensive use of non-compliant flags. Unless an economic incentive is added to the EU’s Ship Recycling Regulation, the registration of EU ships under flags of convenience such as Saint Kitts and Nevis, Tuvalu and Comoros is likely to increase, and will allow ship owners to sail around the law once it enters into force, and to continue dumping their ships in substandard facilities.

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