Press Release – European ship owners on promotional tour in Alang – environmental and human rights activists denied access

Tomorrow, European ship owners, government representatives of France, Germany and Belgium, and the European Commission will visit the Alang shipbreaking yards. Despite several indications that NGOs, including the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, would be part of the delegation, no NGO was invited to join in the end.

"We were clearly not welcome to join this visit. Critical civil society voices are not wanted in Alang – neither by ship owners, nor by the yards – this confirms the lack of transparency under which the yards in Alang operate."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The delegation will also not meet trade union representatives or workers, and will only visit a selection of very few yards. The visit is organised by industry association ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Association) that represents the interests of European ship owners. It is an attempt by both ship owners and certain yards in India to convince European policy makers that yards in Alang should be approved for the upcoming EU list of accepted ship recycling facilities. However, under the European Ship Recycling Regulation and the recently published technical guidelines on the requirements for ship recycling facilities, it is clear that beaching facilities do not qualify for the EU list.


With regards to tomorrow’s visit, local environmental groups have raised several concerns related to the deplorable working conditions, poor downstream waste management and continued pollution of the coastal waters in Alang.

"We share the Gujarat-based NGOs’ concerns and demand that European ship owners do not settle for double standards. European ship owners should only use facilities that operate at a level which is accepted in the European Union. The low-cost method of beaching will not feature on the EU list."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
Photo by Adam Cohn - - Ship Breaking Detritus, Alang Shipyards, 2015



Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #9

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform publishes today the ninth South Asia Quarterly Update, a briefing paper in which it informs about the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Providing an overview of vessels broken on the beaches of South Asia, accidents, recent on-the-ground, legislative and political developments including our activities in South Asia, we aim to inform the public about the negative impacts of substandard shipbreaking practices as well as positive steps aimed at the realisation of environmental justice and the protection of workers’ rights.


In this edition you will find out more about several accidents in the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh and a revived High Court order, the effects of the European Union standard for sustainable ship recycling, and the story of the illegal export of the Horizon Trader. In the first quarter of 2016, 239 large commercial vessels were sold for breaking, 189 of these were beached in South Asia. So far this year at least seven workers have lost their lives at the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh.


Press Release – Bangladesh High Court issues contempt rule against 14 Government Officials: ministries and shipbreakers asked to account for non-compliance with 2009 judgement

The Bangladesh High Court yesterday issued a contempt rule asking 14 Government officials and the president of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA) to explain why they have not implemented the Court’s judgement dating March 2009. The Court now demands arguments from the respondents as to why they should not be held responsible for contempt of the court’s rulings and “for deliberately and persistently ignoring safety of the workers and safety and integrity of the environment”. The Government was also meant to form an independent committee for the impartial supervision of the shipbreaking activities. The Court decision is the result of a contempt petition submitted by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), the Platform member organisation that has been fighting in the courts against the shipbreaking industry’s violation of the law since 2003.

"This step taken by the High Court fundamentally challenges the apathy of the Government agencies in regulating the shipbreaking sector as well as the strong culture of impunity the owners of ship‎breaking yards enjoy due to their political connections. This must end. We cannot accept any more deaths of labourers and someone has to finally take responsibility for the fatal accidents."
Rizwana Hasan - Chief Executive - Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)

BELA has also asked the Court to suspend the activities of 42 shipbreaking yards. In the case of 37 yards, BELA has accused the companies of unsafe working conditions resulting in accidents and deaths, and for 7 yards BELA has provided information on how these companies violate the requirements for their environmental clearances. BELA is gathering more evidence so the number of yards to be closed is likely to raise even further.

"Despite the high-profile Court order given in March 2009, both the shipbreaking industry and responsible ministries have remained inactive in addressing the pressing issues related to both occupational health and safety and to environmental pollution and hazardous waste dumping. We insist that they will not be allowed to get off lightly yet another time."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In March 2009, the High Court had ruled that the Government is to set up a committee to ensure the impartial supervision of the shipbreaking industry. The Court also found that the shipbreaking yards did not hold the necessary environmental clearance to operate. As a consequence, the yards were temporarily shut down. The Court demanded that the Government comply with the requirements under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. This included the respect for Prior Informed Consent (PIC), that is, the approval by Bangladesh of the import of ships based on the amount of toxics on board the end-of-life vessels.


The political clout of the shipbreaking industry, amongst them members of Parliament and other powerful politicians as well as some of the most influential industrialists in the country, managed hastily issued environmental clearances for their yards. For the import of end-of-life vessels to Bangladesh, the authorities blindly accept fake certificates stating that all the old ships are free of hazardous waste. The authorities never ask anyone to follow the procedure of Prior Informed Consent. The independent Committee, which according to the Court should also include non-government organisations and labour unions, has never been made functional – thus, there is no impartial supervision of the industry. BELA argues that at least 93 workers have died since the 2009 Court order. All this has passed without consequences.


Both the shipbreaking industry and the Government of Bangladesh are now asked to give account of their actions. If they fail to produce sufficient arguments, responsible persons are likely to be sentenced and yards may be closed down.


Click here to access The Daily Star's article covering the issue.


Workers without personal protective equipment, Chittagong shipyards, 2014 Copyrights: NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 2014



Platform News – European Union sets a global standard for sustainable ship recycling: NGOs call on shipping companies to use EU approved yards

Today, the European Commission (EC) publishes technical guidance for ship recycling facilities that want to be approved under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. The European Union (EU) mirrors with this step the call by environmental and human rights NGOs for a relocation of ship recycling to platforms that can ensure sustainable practices. Facilities that intend to be listed as EU-approved will need to ensure safe working conditions, pollution control including proper downstream waste management and enforcement of international labour rights.

"Recycling yards that want to make it on the EU list of approved facilities need to meet high environmental and safety standards. The EC is clear in its message: an unprotected beach is never going to be an appropriate place for a high-risk heavy industry involving hazardous waste management."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

According to the EU, ship recycling is an industrial activity that needs industrial methods, equipment and standards. Workers and the environment anywhere in the world have the same right to protection under the EU Regulation. Attempts by some Member States with strong shipping interests to water down the requirements of the Regulation, more specifically, to accept low-cost beaching facilities in South Asia as environmentally friendly and safe for workers in order to make it on the list, have not been successful.


The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities [1] will become a global reference point for sustainable ship recycling. It rewards the companies that already have or are willing to invest in the necessary infrastructure and the employment of fully trained workers to ensure safe and environmentally sound recycling practices. The yards responsible shipping companies such as Hapag Lloyd, Wilhelmsen, Grieg and Royal Dutch Boskalis work with in Europe, China and Turkey will most likely feature on the EU list after having provided evidence that they comply with the requirements and in some cases also having improved their practices in order to meet the European standard. By promising to clearly distinguishing good from bad practices [2], the EU list has also already prompted the establishment of new facilities that see opportunities for an increased market share.


For ship owners, the EU list will be the only guarantee that their end-of-life vessels are not causing harm to workers and the environment. Backed by ‘independent verifiers with qualifications’ and audits by the EC or agents acting on its behalf, a further important warranty lays in the right NGOs have to submit complaints and concerns to the EC regarding the functioning of a facility and with that prompt an on-site visit to establish whether the facility should be removed from the list.

"While only vessels sailing under an EU flag will be legally obliged to use an EU approved facility, any shipping company around the world with a responsible policy can use the EU listed facilities to prove their effort."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



[1] The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities is expected to be published by the end of 2016. Applications from facilities that want to feature on the first batch of the list need to be sent to the EC by 1 July 2016.


[2] Unlike the industry driven International Maritime Organisation (IMO) the EU is not rubberstamping the unnecessarily risky activity of managing reverse logistics of ship material management on a beach.
The EU requirements go beyond the IMO’s Hong Kong Convention (HKC), a piece of law which was adopted in 2009, but so far has only been ratified by four countries and is unlikely to enter into force in due time. More than 100 global environmental and human rights organisations, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics and European policy makers have denounced the HKC for merely rubberstamping the status quo.



Platform News – Violence reaches new level: shipbreaking yard’s private security personnel fire shots and injure seven people

In the morning of 28 March, shipbreaking worker Sumon was killed on a private road inside Kabir Steel yard located North of Bangladesh’s major port city, Chittagong. His brother, who works at the yard as well, was seriously injured in the same accident. According to local sources, Sumon was run over by a truck transporting steel plates from the yard. When a local government representative reached the yard to claim the legal compensation owed to the victim’s family, the yard management refused to take responsibility for the accident with the argument that the truck was owned and operated by another company.


At around 11 a.m., locals together with family members gathered outside the yard in protest and blocked traffic on the highway. They claimed, according to the English daily newspaper The Daily Star that the company was withholding Sumon’s body inside the yard. The private security personnel employed by the shipbreaking yard started shooting at the group. According to Bangladeshi newspapers, one of Kabir Steel’s guards injured seven people.

"This course of action represents unnecessary use of violence against unarmed protestors and it shows the climate of violence surrounding the shipbreaking yards. Locals and workers protesting the conditions in the yards obviously put their lives in danger in an atmosphere in which shipbreaking yards feel entitled to shoot at people."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Tariqul Islam of the local police station said that the accused security guards were detained. Moreover, the Financial Express Bangladesh reported that the police seized a gun and several rounds of bullets at the yard.

"The incident shows how non-transparent this industry is. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its local members now expect that the police investigates this case properly. We demand rightful punishment of those responsible for the blood shed."
Rizwana Hasan - Chief Executive - Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)
"We expect that the family of the dead worker receives its due compensation as fast as possible instead of being caught up in an argument between two companies pushing away responsibility."
Muhammed Ali Shahin - Bangladesh Coordinator - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

So far, the compensation claim has not been settled.


Kabir Steel’s shipbreaking yard is part of the large industrial conglomerate of Kabir Group of Industries. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has documented several severe and fatal accidents in the yard over the last years. In 2014 alone, when the yard had the highest recorded number of accidents amongst all Bangladeshi shipbreakers, at least 2 workers were killed and six more severely injured at Kabir Steel’s shipbreaking yard and re-rolling mill in four different accidents. This included the case of three workers who suffered severe burn wounds all over their bodies after an explosion on a Norwegian-owned oil tanker used by Teekay Corporation. In another accident in the same yard, on 30 March 2016, cutter helper Md. Abdus Salam fell down from a beached vessel due to the lack of safety measures at work. As a result, he suffered serious injuries including several fractures in his arms and legs.

"The sad accidents record is proof of the fact that Kabir Steel does not ensure safer working conditions, does not comply with proper safety procedures, uses untrained workers, lacks proper infrastructure to guarantee occupational health and safety and does not organise the legally binding Safety Committee at yard level."
Repon Chowdhury - Executive Director - Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE)

The Platform welcomes that IndustriAll Global Union has sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. It joins the trade union’s call for proper investigation and for the rightful punishment of both negligent yard owners and of security guards for the bodily assault of protestors.


Sumon and the other workers at Kabir Steel have been hired to dismantle the Greek-owned and Greek-flagged bulk carrier Alpha Friendship. The Athens-based owner Alpha Tankers obviously does not take care of responsible ship recycling. The Platform will take up this case to illustrate the necessity for the EU and its Member States to better regulate ship owners’ sub-standard shipbreaking practices.


Click here to access IndustriALL’s press release on the incident.

Click here to access The Daily Star's article covering the incident.


Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Copyrights: NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 2014