Press Release – Recent fires at Gadani yards prompt authorities to shut down all shipbreaking activities

NGOs call for the relocation of the industry to facilities equipped for safe and clean recycling

On 11 October a tanker caught fire at the Gadani shipbreaking beach that holds a deplorable record of life threatening accidents. Fortunately, no casualties were recorded. Only a few days later, on 14 October, yet another oil tanker named KRITI (IMO 9270737) caught fire, this time injuring seven workers, three of which are in a critical condition.


The Platform has reported a series of accidents following the catastrophic explosion that killed at least 29 workers and injured 58 on the 1st of November 2016. Since then, there have been at least five more fires caused by unsafe cutting operations. Difficult access for firefighters, a severe lack of ambulances and no hospital in the close vicinity of the yards aggravate the conditions, as reported by trade unions.


Following the major blast in 2016, Pakistani authorities imposed a ban on the import of tankers in addition to a ban on cutting operations. The ban on import was however lifted in April 2018 after 18 months’ freeze. Due to the use of the low-cost method of beaching and the favorable steel market conditions, the Gadani yards offer high prices for end-of-life ships, and soon 22 tankers were waiting for the cutting ban to also be repealed. One local breaker nonetheless started scrapping the VLCC ADA before the authorities lifted the cutting ban, and a fire erupted onboard the tanker in July. Despite the accident, and the fact that few measures had been put in place to ensure safe working conditions, the government issued cutting permissions in late August, putting the life of the workers in danger and prompting the import of additional vessels.

"Ship owners should be held accountable. They carelessly sell vessels to cash buyers that bring the ships to the Pakistani yards. The high profit margin is a clear indicator of destination: the higher the price, the worse the yard. We are concerned over the political clout ship owners seem to enjoy: Greek owners alone are responsible for 1/3 of the ships that are currently beached in Gadani, yet Greece is pushing hard to undermine European laws aimed at improving practices globally."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In contrast to the fire that broke out in July onboard a vessel that had not received cutting permission, the Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had approved the breaking of both vessels that caught fire last week. The two accidents underpin that not only the ship owners and yard operators fail to take necessary precautions, but also that the Balochistan EPA acted negligently when approving the work to start. Fires occur when vessels that are not properly cleaned from highly inflammable residual oil are cut with blowtorches.

"Without having conducted a proper inspection, the Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency first issued NOC (no objection certificate) for the breaking of the Kriti crude oil tanker. After the blast that injured seven workers, they issued a ban on all shipbreaking activities in Gadani, leaving hundreds of workers unemployed. We call on the authorities to take serious steps to move the industry away from the Gadani beach and to a location where proper infrastructure can ensure safe working conditions and pollutants can be controlled."
Dr Muhammad Irfan Khan - Professor at the Islamabad University and Board Member of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
Shipbreaking Workers Union and NTUF jointly organized a protest rally in Gadani against the increase in accidents and the closure of the yards

Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #17

There were a total of 113 ships broken in the third quarter of 2018. Of these, 79 ships were sold to the beaches of South Asia for dirty and dangerous breaking [1]. Between July and September, three workers have lost their lives when breaking ships in Alang, India. So far this year, Platform sources have recorded 24 deaths and 9 injuries in South Asia.



On 27 August, according to trade unions, Naago Singh lost his life while working at Shri Gaitam Ship Breaking yard, located on the beach of Alang, India. Four days later, workers Budhabhai and Ali Ahmed died at Alang yard Honey Ship Breaking, owned by RKB Group. While cutting the cruise ship OCEAN GALA (formerly known as MS Scandinavia and MS Island Escape), they both fell and died on the spot. The OCEAN GALA was an iconic vessel, having featured in TV documentaries and been previously owned and/or operated by well-known companies such as DFDS, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Thomson Cruises during its 36 years of operational life. In 2018, after spending several months laid up in Dubai Khalifa, the OCEAN GALA sailed to Alang, where it was beached on 4 April.


No severe accidents were reported in Bangladesh and Pakistan. In Chittagong, a significant decrease in scrapping activities due to the monsoon season and increased pressure for safe working conditions from the Platform’s member organisations on local authorities, following the disastrous accident record of the first half of 2018, have no doubt contributed to a quarter with no recorded accidents. In Gadani, however, a fire broke out in July on the German-owned tanker ADA beached at plot 116. Luckily, the rescue team successfully evacuated all the workers from the ship. Activities at Gadani continue to take place in breach of decent working and environmental standards. This type of incident could have been avoided if the ban on dismantling oil tankers, which was placed following a series of accidents in 2016 and 2017, had not been lifted in April 2018.


In the third quarter of 2018, US, Greek and Indian ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards with 10 vessels beached each, followed by German and Singaporean owners. Industry sources report that the South Asian market received fewer vessels in the third quarter due to, inter alia, the monsoon season, Eid holidays and a decline in both steel prices and currencies.


Norwegian ship owners continue to sell ships for scrapping in South Asia. In June, Nordic American Tankers (NAT), incorporated in Bermuda and stock-listed in New York, reported the sale of eight ships for 80 million dollars. Three of these vessels ended up on the beach of Alang for breaking – five reached the beach of Chittagong, Bangladesh. According to local sources in Bangladesh, the cutting operations of most of these ships have started without the required permission of the Department of Explosives and other relevant authorities. The NORDIC SATURN was delivered to Bangladeshi SNT Shipbreaking Yard, where one worker died last December. The NORDIC JUPITER and the NORDIC FIGHTER were also bought by yards with a particularly poor track record.


NAT’s vessel ‘Nordic Saturn’ beached in Chittagong, Bangladesh – © NGO Shipbreaking Platform


The Platform continues to closely follow the police investigations on the HARRIER, a Norwegian-owned ship that was arrested as the owners were attempting to illegally export the ship to Pakistan. After being held at a Norwegian port, the vessel finally got permission to be scrapped in Turkey and reached Aliaga in late August. Before arriving Aliaga, the Turkish authorities blamed the HARRIER for a 2,5 km range oil spill in the Izmir province’s coast line. Julia Shipping, the shell company established by cash buyer Wirana and responsible for the transportation of the ship, has allegedly been fined.


No ship had a European flag when it was beached last quarter. All ships sold to the Chittagong, Alang and Gadani yards pass via the hands of scrap-dealers, also known as cash-buyers, that often re-register and re-flag the vessel on its final voyage. Grey- and black-listed flags of convenience are particularly popular with cash-buyers, and more than half of the ships sold to South Asia this quarter changed flag to the registries of Comoros, Niue, Palau and St. Kitts and Nevis just weeks before hitting the beach. The high number of flag changes should induce serious concerns with regards to the effectiveness of legislation based on flag state jurisdiction only. These flags are not typically used during the operational life of ships and offer ‘last voyage registration’ discounts. They are grey- and black-listed due to their poor implementation of international maritime law.





[1] During the third quarter of 2018, the following number of vessels were broken in other locations: 22 in Turkey, 1 in China, 2 in Europe and 9 in the rest of the world.