Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #12

128 ships were sold for scrap to the South Asian beaches in the first quarter of 2017 [1]. Eleven workers were killed and at least four additional workers were injured whilst cutting down the vessels manually on the tidal beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Beaching yards offer cheap, but dangerous and polluting scrapping. Ship owners have been aware of the detrimental effects of breaking ships on tidal beaches for more than 20 years, yet the ease with which existing environmental laws can be circumvented for the sake of the extra profit the shipping industry makes by selling to the beach yards allows the worst practices to persist.


In Gadani, Pakistan, yet another tragedy caused the death of shipbreaking workers. After the major explosion on the tanker ACES on 1 November 2016, another fire broke out on a Greek owned LPG tanker, GAZ FOUNTAIN. The fire claimed five lives and seriously injured one worker. The tanker had already caught fire in December 2016, only one month after the explosion which claimed at least 28 workers’ lives on the spot. Another worker was killed in a separate accident, when a lifeboat crashed down from the UK based Zodiac owned SNOWDON. Clearly not enough has been done in Gadani to ensure even the basic security for workers. Despite these recent disasters, ship owners and cash buyers continue to trade vessels with Pakistan breakers - this quarter 22 ships were sold for breaking at one of the world’s most dangerous places to work.


37 ships were sold to the Chittagong breaking yards. As many as six accidents struck the industry the first months of 2017 killing three workers and seriously injuring another three. Mohammed Azam was fatally crushed by a falling steel plate at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard – mentioned before by the Platform in connection to other fatal accidents – during the breaking of the Belgian CMB owned BULL HUNTER. Two fatal accidents happened at BBC Shipbreaking/KR yard: Rongchang Tripura passed away after falling from the German-owned GRENADA; and Shaheb Mia was crushed by a falling steel plate during the cutting of the SALZGITTER. Bangladesh continues to be the breaking destination where severe and fatal accidents happen most frequently, yet this has not been a deterrent for most shipowners and cash buyers to sell their ships to for breaking.


The Alang beach in India was by far the most popular destination for end-of-life ships this quarter, with 69 ships sold for breaking. The yards in Alang have recently been portraying their practices as improved compared to Bangladesh and Pakistan, but the overall unnecessarily risky conditions of breaking ships on tidal beaches remains. Serious accidents were reported in Alang this quarter, resulting in at least two fatalities. On 4 March a worker died when a crane collapsed. There were rumours of another worker dying after falling from great heights two weeks later, but this could not be confirmed. On 16 March there was a fatal accident in a steel cutting workshop called Sohil Oxygen Co, whose owner is also owner of the Lucky Steel Industries, which is part of the Lucky Group chosen by Maersk to break its ships in Alang. The businesses in the area and the Gujarat Maritime Board remain unwilling to share accident records, and information on what actually happened to those workers who died was clouded by the defensive messaging of the industry in the media. The lack of transparency in Alang remains a serious concern, as does the fact that there is no hospital in Alang. Ships in Alang are taken apart in tidal waters using a method that is banned in Europe, the US and China and that makes it impossible to ensure rapid access for emergency vehicles and containment of pollutants such as oils and toxic paints.


European companies accounted for half of the vessels beached in South Asia the first quarter and where involved in many of the fatal accidents that took place in this poorly regulated industry. For the first time, German owners topped the list with 26 ships sold to South Asian breakers, followed by Greek owners with 17 beached end-of-life vessels. German ship owners, Hansa Mare Reederei GmbH & Company KG and Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG, top the list of the worst dumpers this quarter with each having beached five end-of-life ships.


Whilst grey- and black listed flags, such as Comoros, Palau and St Kitts and Nevis, continue to be particularly popular for end-of-life ships, also ships registered under the flags Malta and Cyprus ended up on the beaches. The EU Regulation on Ship Recycling will prohibit the dismantling of EU-flagged ships in substandard yards such as those in Alang, Gadani and Chittagong. However, by simply swapping flag to that of a non-EU country before selling the ship for scrap, ship owners can easily circumvent EU law. Indeed, scrap dealers, such as cash buyers GMS and Wirana, will assist them in doing just that. The re-flagging before scrapping is a common practice and the Platform identified 38 ships, including two Malta flagged ships and one Madeira flagged ship, that changed their flag last quarter just weeks before hitting the beach.


While the EU is trying to redress the shipping industry’s addiction to beaching with the Ship Recycling Regulation, we have seen that European ship owners continue to opt for the worst breaking yards, resulting in the death of workers and pollution of sensitive coastal zones. European ship owners will continue to profit from the worst forms of the business unless the EU develops a financial incentive to curb the re-flagging of the vessels to circumvent the legislation in place.







[1] 196 ships were sold in total the first quarter of 2017, meaning that 65%, ended up on beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. 51 of the beached vessels were container ships. The other main shipbreaking destinations, Turkey and China, received 36 and 28 vessels respectively. 4 ships were destined for recycling in other locations outside the main 5 breaking nations.


Press Release – Controversial Tide Carrier under arrest in Norway

Attempt to illegally export the ship to Pakistan revealed


After having been informed by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its member organisation Bellona that the TIDE CARRIER (now named HARRIER, aka EIDE CARRIER) had been sold for illegal, dirty and dangerous scrapping to a South Asian beaching facility, the Norwegian environmental authorities arrested the ship on Tuesday 5 April [1]. The vessel is not allowed to leave Norway unless it is to sail to a ship recycling destination in line with international and European hazardous waste laws. According to the Norwegian Environment Agency, it is the first arrest of a vessel in Norway for the illegal export of hazardous waste.


The Platform had been informed already during the summer of 2015 that the ship was sold for scrap. Having been laid up for many years on the Norwegian west coast the Platform immediately contacted the Norwegian owners Eide Group to make them aware of the laws governing end-of-life ships and that exporting the vessel to a South Asian beaching yard would be in breach of the European Waste Shipment Regulation and the UN Basel Convention. Eide Group denied then that the vessel would be scrapped.


On 22 February 2017 the vessel attempted to leave Norway under a new name, flag and registered owner. Now called TIDE CARRIER, the ship had swapped its flag to that of Comoros and was registered under an anonymous St. Kitts and Nevis based post-box company, Julia Shipping - all solid indications that a cash buyer, a scrap dealer specialised in the trading of end-of-life ships to the South Asian beaching yards, was involved.


The TIDE CARRIER however ran into difficulties as the engine stopped working outside the Norwegian coast of Jaeren. The coastguards were forced to trigger a salvage operation, complicated by way of the weather conditions, to avoid the risk of oil spill and grounding close to one of the most renowned beaches in Norway. The rescue operation included the emergency evacuation of 5 crew members - one of which suffered from a broken shoulder – and the deployment of two tugboats to bring the ship to safety.


Norwegian authorities have since then been trying to trace the owner and insurer of the vessel, given that someone should be held accountable for the costs of the rescue operation incurred by the Norwegian state. While the authorities investigated the ownership and condition of the vessel, it remained docked in Gismarvik, Norway.

"We immediately informed Norwegian authorities that the ship was most likely sold for scrapping in South Asia and also that there were suspicions that the ship had been used to store hazardous sludge."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

On Monday 4 April the Environment Agency and the Police found evidence that the vessel was under a “break up voyage” insurance from Norway to Gadani, Pakistan. They also found unidentified and excessive amounts of sludge and fuel oils. The previous week, while the vessel was still in the dock, the TIDE CARRIER changed name to HARRIER and changed from Comoros to another popular end-of-life flag: Palau. Consequently, it became clear that the repair contract from the Middle-East which had been provided to the Norwegian authorities as a way to escape checks for the illegal export of the vessel was false. Revelations of the attempt of the ship’s illegal export and subsequent breaking on the Gadani beach resulted in the arrest of the ship.


This is not the first time cash buyers seek to circumvent environmental protection laws by providing fake contracts of repair or further operational use. Recently the Norwegian owned CITY OF TOKYO was allowed to leave the port of Antwerp under the pretense of repair work in Dubai – instead it sailed directly to the infamous beaching yards in Bangladesh. The FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER was also illegally exported from the UK to Bangladesh under the pretense of further operational use in Nigeria [2]. Cash buyer GMS used grey- and black listed Paris MoU flags and established anonymous post box companies in both cases.

"The cash buyers of TIDE CARRIER will not only have to pay back the Norwegian authorities for the rescue operation, but will also have to answer for the fake repair documents which were used to let it sail in the first place. Norwegian owner Eide will have to be held responsible for having sold to a cash buyer as this clearly indicates their complicity in the attempt to illegally export the ship and the potentially toxic excess sludges and fuels found on board."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
© LN Kyv/The NCA