Platform News – NGO Shipbreaking Platform presents Annual Report 2015

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform presents its Annual Report 2015.


Check the new Annual Report to find out more about:

- our findings about global shipbreaking practices in 2015, including an overview of developments on the ground and statistics on the total number of ships dismantled in 2015;

- our activities and campaigns in 2015, including our policy campaign aimed at creating a legal framework that ensures the growth of clean and safe ship recycling globally; our corporate campaign calling upon ship owners, cargo owners, ship financers and recyclers to commit to sustainable ship recycling; and our work in the shipbreaking countries where there is a need for strengthened regulation and implementation of existing legislation to protect the workers and the environment;

- our wide outreach in the press and on social media;

- latest organisational developments.


Download the Platform’s Annual Report 2015 here, or send us an email to order a hard copy.



Platform News – UN Special Rapporteur concerned about German shipbreaking practices

In a written submission to the German Government, UN Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak has expressed serious concerns related to the substandard shipbreaking practices of German ship owners, in particular fatalities and toxic chemical exposure of workers and the local population. The Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes has raised shipbreaking as one example where German companies face challenges to prevent harm caused by toxic and hazardous substances.


German ship owners operate the world’s third largest merchant fleet (in terms of number of vessels), and have been linked to fatalities and toxic chemical exposure of workers and local populations including children, who dismantle end-of-life ships in deadly conditions. In 2014, German ship owners sold a record high 95% of their end-of-life tonnage for substandard breaking on the beaches of South Asia,” he writes.


The Special Rapporteur argues that the preparation of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, which is currently being developed under the lead of the German Foreign Office, provides an opportunity to address the challenges related to the protection of human rights in the business sphere. He calls on the Government to ensure that companies reduce the use of hazardous substances and prevent double standards. Moreover, he calls on the German Government “to create the much needed incentives and frameworks for German businesses to foster a positive human rights record”. The Special Rapporteur undertook an official country visit to Germany late in 2015, where he met with key stakeholders on the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

"We could not agree more with the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions. German ship owners need to take responsibility for sustainable recycling and stop the dumping of toxic end-of-life vessels via cash buyers in developing countries. When it comes to end-of-life management, human rights due diligence translates into the ship owners’ responsibility to prevent environmental pollution and the workers’ exposure to hazardous substances."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform calls on the German Government to raise the issue with the shipping community and to address their unacceptable practices in the National Action Plan. In 2015 alone, 23 large commercial vessels from Germany ended up in substandard shipbreaking yards, making German ship owners the fifth biggest dumpers globally. Several German ships were broken down in Bangladesh where environmental pollution, hazardous waste dumping and working conditions are the worst. The Platform has been able to link fatal and severe accidents in Indian and Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards to the demolition of German vessels. The latest severe accident related to a German ship owner concerns Hamburg-based ship owner Neu Seeschiffahrt GmbH who sold its end-of-life ore carrier RENATE N (IMO 9006851) to Seiko Steel / Darussalam Enterprise with the help of cash buyer Wirana this February. Mominul, an only 20 years old worker, was severely injured when he fell from great heights working without adequate protection gear. He will remain disabled for the rest of his life. The yard management has not paid for the necessary operation only available in a specialised hospital.


Apart from Germany’s largest ship owner Hapag Lloyd, which has a progressive ship recycling policy, the rest of the ship-owning community has remained shamefully inactive with regards to finding sustainable and safe solutions to the issue.


More information from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.


Platform News – Indian NGOs voice concerns as ship owners promote beaching

Indian NGOs voice serious concerns regarding the beaching of end-of-life vessels in Alang in reaction to the recent visit to the Alang shipbreaking yards organised by ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Association). Late in April, the European ship owners had invited government representatives from France, Germany and Belgium, as well as the European Commission to a promotional tour of Alang. NGOs, including the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its Indian members, were not allowed to join the visit. Additionally, ECSA did not take the time to meet with the local trade union or the affected workers themselves.

"ECSA should be aware of the fact that environmental groups in India remain very critical with regards to the state of the shipbreaking industry in Alang. None of the yards in Alang have to undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA) even when they open new yards or set up new infrastructure. EIAs are required by the law, and they would ensure a transparent process, including a proper assessment of the environmental impacts of the industry, as well as allow for civil society and local communities such as fishermen to express their views."
Ritwick Dutta - Advocate - Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE)

Indian NGOs are concerned about the negative environmental impact of dismantling end-of-life vessels in the intertidal zone where large amounts of debris, including toxic paint chips, are released, accumulate in the environment and are washed out by the tide. Moreover, the secondary cutting areas, which have been concreted in some of the beaching yards, show cracks in the surface, which raises doubts as to whether they can qualify as impermeable floors.

"The shipping industry often forgets that shipbreaking is not only about recycling, but also generates hazardous wastes that need to be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. However, in India, the enforcement of hazardous waste rules is not very effective and systems for tracking waste are inadequate. This results in leakages of hazardous waste. There is also no incinerator available to destroy PCBs. Moreover: why should India be responsible for the disposal of hazardous wastes belonging to foreign ship owners?"
Satish Sinha - Toxic Links

Local environmental groups have submitted letters to the European Commission highlighting pollution caused by the beaching method, the lack of transparent and adequate downstream management, as well as labour rights violations. The letters sent by Gujarati NGOs Paryavaran Mitra and Machimar Adhikar Sangarsh Sangstha welcome that the EU has taken “a strong stance against the continued acceptance of breaking ships directly on the beach”, a practice which is banned in other parts of the world, as the local environmentalists argue.


ECSA and its members have found a convenient solution in referring to the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), an IMO Convention that is unlikely to enter into force any day soon: the HKC does not ban the beaching method and it does not introduce strict rules on downstream waste management. Moreover, anyone can hand out Statements of Compliance (SOCs) to shipbreaking yards claiming they operate in line with the convention. While some certifiers act with more diligence, others have started to offer cheaper and quicker certifications. It is expected that many yards will soon hold a HKC compliance certificate. This is a development similar to ISO 30.000, for which most yards in India and Bangladesh were quick to produce certificates, rendering the standard meaningless.

"We share the Gujarat-based NGOs’ concerns and demand that European ship owners do not settle for double standards. Ship owners should only use facilities that operate at a level which is accepted in the European Union. We and our Indian partners believe that the environment, local communities and workers in India deserve the same level of protection which is reflected in the European Ship Recycling Regulation."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



Platform News – Shooting and fatal accidents at Kabir shipbreaking: Belgian ship owner CMB, Greek Kanellakis Group and Standard Chartered linked

Standard Chartered Bank, Belgian ship owner CMB / Bocimar as well as the Greek Kanellakis Group are linked to Kabir Steel, a Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard and re-rolling mill with a particularly bad accident record where private security guards shot at locals protesting the death of worker Sumon on 28 March [1]. The leading Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard has analysed CMB’s substandard shipbreaking practices in a two page article published last Friday showing how the Antwerp-based shipping company uses cash buyers to rid itself of financial and legal risks. The Platform calls on these European companies to ensure that their value chain neither contributes to such negative human rights impacts nor to hazardous waste dumping and pollution in Bangladesh.


Whilst NGOs and international trade unions have called upon the police to impartially investigate the circumstances of the recent shooting episode at Kabir Steel, it is no secret that the Chittagong-based firm, which runs shipbreaking yards at two different plots as well as a local steel re-rolling mill, has a particularly bad accident record. In January 2014, three workers suffered severe burn injuries in an explosion on a tanker beached at the yard. Only after Platform members took up their case did the men receive treatment and support. The case received both local and international media attention, and the CEO of the Norwegian ship owner Teekay Corporation, whose vessel was involved in the incident, publicly stated that the company will stop selling ships to substandard yards. Early in 2014, two more workers, Jafar and Lipton, were injured and taken to hospital. In August 2014, worker Afzal died in the hospital after an accident at Kabir, and a second, unidentified man suffered injuries. In September 2014, 20 year old Asad Mia was killed at Kabir’s re-rolling mill to which the scrap steel is taken.


The London-headquartered Standard Chartered bank has, according to local informants, been issuing letters of credit or loans to Kabir Steel for the import of end-of-life vessels. The Platform has sent a letter to Standard Chartered’s management asking why the bank is working with a yard that clearly operates in breach of Standard Chartered’s own ship recycling policy: according to this policy the bank will only work with yards that meet international workers’ rights and environmental protection standards.

"None of the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh operate in line with international standards for the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste as there are no waste treatment facilities available. Occupational health and safety measures are absent or inadequate as accidents regularly show. Most workers do not receive a living wage and any protest against the conditions can easily lead to losing one’s job. We do not believe that a bank such as Standard Chartered should be associated to such practices. [2]"
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Leading banks, amongst them ABN AMRO, are cooperating with companies to invest in sustainable ship recycling in industrial platforms.


Also major European shipping companies are linked to the dangerous and dirty shipbreaking practices at Kabir Steel. The end-of life vessels currently being scrapped on the beach of Kabir Steel shipbreaking are the ALPHA FRIENDSHIP and the MINERAL WATER. The ALPHA FRIENDSHIP’s was sold to Kabir Steel for scrapping by Greek Kanellakis Group with the help of cash buyer Wirana. The ship owner is part of a group of shipping companies controlled by the influential Kanellakis and Angelicoussis family. The vessel arrived in Bangladesh this January while still registered under the Greek flag.

"The EU Ship Recycling Regulation sets high standards for ship recycling, and once it becomes applicable end-of-life sales like this will constitute a clear breach of European law. Greek owners top the list of worst end-of-life ship dumpers. It is high time that the Greek Government holds its shipping industry accountable for practices that put peoples’ lives and the environment in danger."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The MINERAL WATER was sold to Kabir Steel by Belgian ship owner CMB N.V. S.A. and its wholly-owned Belgian subsidiary Bocimar International with the help of cash buyer Western Overseas. CMB is an Antwerp-based company specialised in bulk carriers. It is controlled by the well-known Saverys family who also holds major stakes in other leading Belgian ship-owning companies, Exmar, Euronav and Delphis. The MINERAL WATER swapped its Belgian flag to that of Niue just weeks before hitting the beach in Chittagong mid-February. Niue, a Pacific island with around 2000 inhabitants, is on the European Union’s blacklist of the world’s 30 worst-offending tax havens and has recently come up as a new low-cost flag of convenience for end-of-life vessels.

"The example of the CMB vessel shows how easy it is for ship owners to circumvent any regulation based on flag state jurisdiction. Flag of convenience states such as Niue are not likely to strictly enforce or even ratify international law. The real ship-owning nations such as Belgium cannot continue to rely on tax havens and substandard shipbreaking countries to ensure sustainable ship recycling. At the European level a financial incentive to ensure better practices is being discussed – Belgium and other Member States should support this."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The Platform is calling upon the European Union, where more than 40% of the world fleet is controlled, to ensure that ship owners cannot further exploit underpaid workers exposed to extremely dangerous working conditions and the absence of properly enforced environmental protection standards.





[1] As reported by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform , private security guards employed by Kabir Steel shipbreaking, injured at least seven workers and locals when they gathered at the yard’s gate in protest of the death of Summon. The young man had been killed when he was hit by a truck transporting material from the shipbreaking yard. The yard management had first refused responsibility for the accident as the truck was owned by another company. The Platform and its local member organisations as well as Bangladeshi and international trade unions have strongly criticized the use of violence against protestors. They have both called on Kabir Steel to pay compensation owed to the victim’s family, and on the police and judiciary to properly and independently investigate the case to bring those responsible to justice. Meanwhile, Kabir has paid compensation to the victim’s family and those injured by bullets.


[2] For more information on the conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, see short video by National Geographic.



One of the victims, worker Afzal, who died at Kabir Steel mill in 2014