Press Release – EU’s leverage & insurance policy on dirty shipping needed

Environmental NGOs call upon the EU to effectively regulate ship borne pollution


From dangerous emissions in ports to hazardous scrapping on South Asian beaches, European shipping companies pollute and put people’s health and lives at serious risk. In light of the ongoing European Shipping Week and the failure of the International Maritime Organisation to find solutions, environmental experts are ringing the alarm bell and calling upon European policy makers to urgently adopt policies that effectively target the environmental performance of shipping.

"Every year approximately 50,000 people in the EU die prematurely because of air pollution from ships. While all land-based sources have been gradually regulated in recent years we still face a lack of effective emissions control measures for ships."
Daniel Rieger - NABU

Burning heavy fuel without any exhaust gas aftertreatment systems is shockingly still standard practice on open sea, despite both regulatory and technical means at hand to limit the threat to human health, environment and global climate caused by such shipping emissions. The EU must take a lead by designating all its waters as emission control areas for ship born sulphur, nitrogen and particle emissions. Such a step would not only lead to a significant uptake of cleaner fuels but also enable the use of particulate filters and nitrogen catalysts, therefore reducing air pollution levels in port cities and along shipping routes significantly. The EU must also back the growing calls [1] for an international ban on the use of heavy fuel oil by Arctic shipping by 2020.


Shipping mind-bogglingly remains the only sector of the economy not contributing to EU climate targets and yet it is uncontestably an industry responsible for emitting significant amounts of CO2. Forecasts show EU-related ship CO2 emissions will increase by 86% in 2050 compared to 1990 levels. By 2050, international shipping could be responsible for 17% of global CO2 emissions if left unregulated. Environmental NGOs therefore welcome that the European Parliament has decided to include shipping in the EU Maritime Climate Fund/ETS from 2023 if the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) fails to deliver on a global deal.

"The IMO has so far failed to give a credible response to the Paris agreement’s call for urgent action. The EU ETS will provide important leverage to ensure that the IMO finally delivers what it promised under its own roadmap. EU governments must now follow the European Parliament’s lead and agree that ship CO2 emissions must go in the EU ETS if the IMO does not act."
Faig Abbasov - Transport & Environment

Devastating human and environmental impacts are also caused by ships at the end of their operational life. European ship owners shamefully continue to top the list of companies that sell their ships for dirty and dangerous scrapping on beaches in South Asia [2]. A new EU law aims to ensure that EU-flagged ships are recycled in EU-approved facilities. However, in a system where owners can easily swap the flag of their ship and where all vessels sold to South Asia pass through the hands of cash-buyers - middle men specialising in hazardous waste trafficking - legislation based on flag state jurisdiction will be easy to circumvent.

"The scandalous shipbreaking practices of European shipping companies can only be stopped through measures that go beyond flag state jurisdiction. That is why we call on the EU to demand a ship recycling licence from all vessels visiting EU ports. EU policies need to hit where it hurts. Profits made by exploiting workers and poor environmental law enforcement in South Asia is dirty money."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

International shipping laws rest on enforcement by flags of convenience, such as those of Panama and Liberia and Paris MoU grey- and black listed flags at end-of-life. Solutions to curb dirty shipping will need to be ascertained by the EU. Since it controls 40% of the world fleet and is a major trading destination, there is no reason why the EU should be timid in this role.




[1] The Arctic Commitment, an initiative by the Clean Arctic Alliance, aims to protect Arctic communities and ecosystems from the risks posed by the use of heavy fuel oil as marine fuel. For more details see


[2] For a list of all ships sold for scrap in 2016, see



Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2016

European ship owners top the list of global dumpers: the EU must do more to reverse this scandal


Read our country-specific press releases:
Brazil | Germany | Greece | Italy


The list of all ships dismantled around the world in 2016, which the NGO Shipbreaking Platform has compiled and analysed, shows no improvements of the shipping industry’s management of its end-of-life vessels. Far from it: the Platform today releases data that indicate an increase in the number of ships sold for polluting and unsafe shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia. In 2016, a total of 668 vessels were broken on tidal beaches, that is as much as 87% of all tonnage dismantled globally.

"The shipping industry is nowhere close to ensuring sustainable ship recycling practices. Last year, we saw not only an increase in the market share for dangerous and dirty shipbreaking, but also a record-breaking number of EU-owned vessels on the South Asian beaches. A jaw-dropping 84% of all European end-of-life ships ended up in either India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Beaching yards are not only well known for their failure to respect international environmental protection standards, but also for their disrespect of fundamental labour rights and international waste trade law."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

A higher number of ships beached means that workers, the environment and local communities in South Asia are exposed to ever increased hardship. 2016 saw the worst catastrophe in the history of the industry: on 1 November, at least 28 workers were killed instantly and more than 50 injured when an explosion and a massive fire shook a tanker beached in Gadani, Pakistan. The death toll in the Bangladeshi yards, which the Platform was able to document, reached 22 in 2016, with another 29 workers having suffered serious injuries. Whilst accident records in Indian shipbreaking yards are kept a secret, the Platform was informed of at least two fatal deaths in Alang.


DUMPERS 2016 - Worst practices


The worst dumper prize goes to IDAN OFER, son of shipping magnate Sammy Ofer. Idan Ofer owns QUANTUM PACIFIC GROUP and has a controlling stake in It may seem a big surprise for a country whose industry is proud of green technology and engineering solutions, but GERMANY is responsible for the worst shipbreaking practices amongst all shipping nations when one compares the size of its fleet to the number of ships broken irresponsibly. German owners, banks and ship funds had a staggering 97 ships rammed up on the beaches of South Asia out of a total of 99 vessels sold for demolition: 98% of all obsolete German ships ended up on a beach! That not being enough, close to 40% were broken in Bangladesh, where conditions are known to be the worst. Amongst the most irresponsible owners are Hansa Mare with 12 ships, Alpha Ship, F. Laeisz and Peter Doehle with 7 each, and Dr. Peters, König & Cie, Norddeutsche Vermögen and Rickmers with 6 each.


The German shipbreaking practices come with a high death toll. During the breaking period of the RENATE N. at Seiko shipbreaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh, three workers were killed and three more injured (see “Accidents” in the Platform’s South Asia Quarterly Update). The vessel owned by Neu Seeschifffahrt had been traded through cash buyer Wirana. Even the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights expressed serious concerns in a submission to the German Government, criticizing the substandard practices of German owners. In November, another Bangladeshi worker was killed during the demolition of the only 10 year-old, loss-making container ship VIKOTRIA WULFF.


“It is not the first time that shipbreaking workers pay with their lives for the failed business practices of German ship owners and their ship funds. Due to numerous bankruptcies resulting from short-sighted and high-risk investment, insolvency administrators appointed by the courts quickly trade the unprofitable ships to the beaches of South Asia, and the bill for the shipping industry’s greed is paid by people and the environment”, comments Patrizia Heidegger.


GREECE was responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2016: 104 ships in total. Since the Platform has started to compile data in 2009, Greek shipping companies have unceasingly topped the list of owners that opt for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking. Backed by the Greek government, they continue to refuse liability for the damage done to workers and the environment. A Greek ship beached in Pakistan in December 2016 caused the death of five workers in January when a fire broke out on the GAZ FOUNTAIN owned by Athens-based Naftomar.


The worst corporate dumper prize goes to the UK-based ZODIAC. The company is operated out of London and owned by Eyal Ofer, son of late shipping magnate Sammy Ofer. Zodiac alone has sold 12 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2016, mostly to Bangladesh, and the company has been linked to severe accidents. During the demolition of Ofer’s ship SNOWDON, beached in Pakistan in October, a worker was killed in January this year. Eyal’s brother Idan, owner of the QUANTUM PACIFIC GROUP and holder of a controlling stake in the ISRAEL CORPORATION, received the worst dumper award in 2015 for selling most of his end-of-life vessels to Bangladesh breakers – a more than dubious practice for a family that wants to be known for its philanthropy.


"It is scandalous that the burden to deal with Europe’s profit-greedy shipbuilding boom is shifted to communities and workers in South Asia: first the shipping industry creates a large overcapacity on the market, and then it fails to find responsible solutions for its obsolete ships."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In 2016, also Maersk decided to take a U-turn on its previously progressive ship recycling policy: the Danish container ship giant decided to go back to the shipbreaking beaches of India where it is offered higher prices for its unwanted ships. Being one of the catalysts of the overcapacity on the shipping market itself, Maersk has to get rid of 75 – 100 ships in the coming years.

"This move to boost profits does not only help to rubberstamp the beaching method, but, very regrettably, it is also stalling real progress and innovation in India to move ship recycling to the next level – off the beach – to modern ship recycling facilities."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Ship owners sell their vessels to South Asian yards via cash-buyers, companies that specialise in the trade of end-of-life tonnage. Cash-buyers promise ship owners not only the highest price, but also to rid them of their responsibility to properly deal with the end-of-life management of their ships. [2] Ships contain large amounts of toxic materials such as oil sludge, asbestos and paints laden with heavy metals and would yield less profit at end-of-life if sold to a recycling facility that firmly follows environmental and occupational health and safety standards.


The data compiled by the Platform also show that ship owners continue to shield themselves from responsibility through the use of cash buyers such as GMS and Wirana. These scrap dealers reflag end-of-life vessels to last-voyage flags of convenience, such as Palau, Comoros and St Kitts and Nevis, and sell them off for the highest price offered by the worst yards.

"Looking at the flags used at end-of-life, it is clear that legislation based on flag state jurisdiction will not be able to bring substantial change to the current practices: who believes that a non-compliant flag and a cash buyer benefitting from the worst conditions will enforce improvements in shipbreaking yards? The global shipbreaking crisis can only be solved through measures that go beyond flag state jurisdiction. That is why we call on the EU to demand a ship recycling licence from all vessels visiting EU ports."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In 2017, the EU will publish a list of ship recycling facilities around the world that comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The list will be the first of its kind and an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling. German container line Hapag-Lloyd has already committed its end-of-life ships off the beach, and has announced that it will only use EU listed facilities. A financial incentive affecting ships trading with the EU is however needed to ensure that irresponsible ship owners are directed towards the facilities listed as approved by the EU. A proposed Ship Recycling Licence scheme is now being discussed. The many scandals involving European shipping companies are also a driver behind the strong interest that various financial institutions have started to show in ship recycling: to ensure responsible business practices some are now setting criteria for shipping companies they finance while looking at the EU Ship Recycling Regulation for guidance.


For the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2016, click here.
For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2016, click here.
For background information on global ship dismantling practices, click here.