Press Release – NGOs urge Bangladesh authorities to halt the import of a highly toxic offshore unit that illegally departed from Indonesia

The Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker J. NAT is currently being towed towards the infamous shipbreaking beach of Chattogram. The vessel, formerly known as JESSLYN NATUNA, operated in the Natuna gas field and was owned by Indonesian company Global Niaga Bersama PT. It was recently sold to cash buyer SOMAP International, who re-named it to J. NAT and re-flagged it to Palau. SOMAP is a company specialised in trading end-of-life vessels to the beaching yards.


The FSO J. NAT left Indonesian waters on 18 April even though local activists warned Indonesian authorities about the toxicity of the vessel. Official documents indicate that the tanker has more than 1500 tons of hazardous waste from the oil extraction process onboard, including 1000 tons of slop oil, 500 tons of oily water and 60 tons of sludge oil. Lab results on a sludge sample shared with the Platform reveal mercury levels of 395mg/kg. The J. NAT likely also contains high amounts of mercury in its structures, as well as in ballast waters. 


The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Basel Action Network (BAN), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), IPEN, Nexus3 Foundation and Zero Mercury Working Group have now warned Bangladesh of the breach of international waste laws [1], and urged authorities to halt the import of the contaminated ship. Ignoring illegal acts risks exposing the workers to severe harm and polluting the environment of Bangladesh. 


"In addition to the hazardous materials typically found on conventional ships, oil and gas structures, such as the J. NAT, are often contaminated by mercury. Mercury is a naturally occurring element present in virtually all oil and gas fields. Concentrations are especially high in the South American and East Asian regions."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Given the likely high concentrations of mercury in the steel hull of the FSO J. NAT and the blow torch method used to cut vessels, there is a high risk of inhalation of mercury vapour. Mercury is an extremely toxic metal. Exposure to mercury, even at low levels, has been linked to central nervous system damage, kidney and liver impairment, reproductive and developmental disorders, defects in foetuses and learning deficits. 


In a recent court judgment on the illegal import of another oil and gas unit – Maersk’s FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER – the Bangladesh Supreme Court denounced the fraudulent documents claiming that the vessel was toxic-free when it in fact was contaminated by radioactive substances. The Court called for full transparency on the hazardous materials onboard end-of-life vessels imported to Bangladesh.

"In light of the recent judgment on the North Sea Producer, there is no scope to give any authorization for import, beaching, and breaking of the J. NAT. It is public knowledge that Bangladesh will not be able to deal with the hazardous waste flow downstream. The vessel will simply flood our shores with toxic substances and expose our workers to deadly risks."
Syeda Rizwana Hasan - Supreme Court lawyer and Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association

The Platform has documented drill ships, floating platforms, jack-up rigs and FPSOs/FSOs scrapped in recent years. Many were beached in South Asia, including units owned by Diamond Offshore, Maersk, Odebrecht, SAIPEM, SBM Offshore and Transocean. The J. NAT case resembles the recent export from Indonesia to the Indian beach of Alang of SBM’s mercury-laden tanker YETAGUN, which was investigated by Dutch media Zembla.  

"With many units to be decommissioned in the next few years, it is high time that the oil and gas industry collectively seeks sustainable solutions for the recycling of its floating units. All actors involved in the oil and gas supply chain, directly or indirectly, have the responsibility to not cause harm to workers and the environment in developing countries."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



[1] Bangladesh and Indonesia are both signatories to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal. Under this Convention, the trade in mercury and several other hazardous wastes that are likely contained within the structure of the FSO J. NAT is strictly controlled. The import of the vessel requires that there is prior informed consent (PIC) between Indonesian and Bangladeshi authorities and that the declarations of hazardous materials left on board must reflect actual conditions. Moreover, the Convention requires that no export be made if there is reason to believe that the recycling or waste management facilities employed for the materials will not constitute environmentally sound management under the Convention. The shipbreaking yards that operate on the tidal beach of Chattogram are well-known for their dangerous and polluting practices. 


Indonesia is also a party to the Minamata Convention, while Bangladesh has not ratified the treaty. Although the oil and gas sector is exempted from the international agreement in terms of their emissions management, countries must identify the potential sources of mercury emissions and releases within their own territory. Measures should be taken when high mercury sources have been identified. 




UPDATE: This post was updated on 1 May 2020 to specify the levels of mercury contamination in the sludge of the FSO J. NAT according to lab results shared with the Platform.


Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #21

There were a total of 166 ships broken in the first quarter of 2020. Of these, 126 ships were sold to the beaches of South Asia for dirty and dangerous breaking [1]. Between January and March, at least 4 workers have lost their lives and at least 7 were severely injured when breaking ships in Bangladesh. 



On February 3, Liton Das (27) was hit by a falling iron plate on his right leg at the Bangladeshi M.M. shipbreaking yard. Liton currently lies in his bed at home with an open wound at high risk of infection. 


On February 4, cutter man Kiron Tripura (28) died at Ziri Subedar shipbreaking yard. A week later, Md. Mizanur Rahman (22) fell from great height whilst dismantling the vessel Anangel Hali, owned by Greek Angelicoussis Shipping Group, at S.N. Corporation yard. Mizanur died on the spot. He had started to work as a shipbreaker only four days prior his death. 


On March 24, two brothers, Sumon Das (45) and Nironjon Das (48), died when breathing atoxic gas, while working in the engine room of the tanker West Energy, owned by South Korean company Sinokor. The vessel was beached at Kabir Steel’s Khawja shipbreaking yard. Sumon and Nironjon leave five children behind. In the same accident, two other workers, Kawser and Habib, were also exposed to the toxic gas and fell sick. The Department of Inspection for Factories Establishments (DIFE) stated to local media that the accident will be investigated.  


Accident records in Gadani, Pakistan and Alang, India, are extremely difficult to obtain. A recent BBC Disclosure report reveals how companies involved, as well as Indian local authorities, seek to thwart public scrutiny of the deplorable conditions in Alang. Also other journalists that have visited the Indian shipbreaking yards, often unannounced and undercover, have documented a reality that starkly contrasts with the industry efforts to greenwash the beaching of vessels for breaking. Workers risk their lives due to lack of infrastructure and dangerous conditions. They are furthermore not provided adequate respiratory protective gear and thus exposed to hazardous materials and gases that impair their health, causing cancer and other respiratory diseases. The death toll caused by occupational diseases contracted at the beaching yards is not disclosed in either India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, and is sadly likely to be shockingly high. 


In the first quarter of 2020, Saudi Arabian ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, followed by South Korean and Greek owners. Shipping company Berge Bulk sent five vessels to Bangladesh for dirty and dangerous breaking.. These add up to the four ships that the ship owner sold to the same beach last year. Berge Bulk’s scrapping practices should prompt the Lloyd’s List Asia Awards to withdraw the prize for “Excellence in Environmental Management” the company recently received for its commitment to environmental conservation. Indeed, there is nothing laudable about putting workers lives at serious risk and polluting sensitive coastal environments.


Almost half of the ships sold to South Asia this quarter changed flag to the registries of Comoros, Gabon, Palau and St. Kitts and Nevis just weeks before hitting the beach. These flags are not typically used during the operational life of ships and offer ‘last voyage registration’ discounts. They are particularly popular with the middlemen that purchase vessels cash from ship owners, and are grey- and black-listed shipping registries due to their poor implementation of international maritime law. 


The high number of flag changes at end-of-life seriously compromises the effectiveness of legislation based on flag state jurisdiction only, such as the European Union (EU) Ship Recycling Regulation. The Platform recorded at least six ships that de-registered from an European flag registry prior the last voyage to South Asia in order to circumvent EU legislation. 


How Covid-19 pandemic is affecting vulnerable shipbreaking workers


The current Covid-19 pandemic is also affecting the South Asian shipbreaking workers. Authorities have halted imports of vessels and imposed strict lockdowns.


As reported by the newspaper The Indian Express, migrant workers in Alang, unable to return to their home villages, are facing serious financial difficulties. They are yet to receive their March salaries and have not received any alternative support, such as food, from their employers. Fortunately, media report that the Gujarat government has now stepped in and distributed thousands of ration kits to the migrant workforce stuck in Alang.


In Pakistan, more than 400 food bags were handed out to the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan and the Shipbreaking workers Union at Gadani shipbreaking yard.


In Bangladesh, according to the Platform’s member organisation YPSA, only local workers are partially receiving food support from the government and from some yard owners. Migrant workers, on the other hand, have not received any public support. YPSA and OSHE, another Platform member organisation active in the Chattogram area, are currently providing assistance to part of the migrant workforce. There is a dire need to secure emergency food assistance, as well as medical check-ups and awareness raising to avoid the spread of Covid-19.






In the shipbreaking area of Chattogram, Bangladesh, 1070 workers that have lost their income due to the Covid-19 lockdown have received food supplies [2]. However, this is not enough as there are thousands of workers and their families who need support. We are therefore calling for YOUR support NOW to make the delivery of food packages to more workers and their  families possible. In collaboration with our member organisation OSHE, we will mobilise resources during this challenging and difficult time. 


Every little bit helps! Your gift will feed not only the workers but their families too!


Help Migrant Workers Programme


Feeds 1 family – 5 family members – for 2 weeks


Feeds 2 families – 10 family members – for 2 weeks


Feeds 10 families – 50 family members – for 2 weeks


Feeds 20 families – 100 family members – for 2 weeks


We still need to help thousands of workers who have been affected by this pandemic


Other amount (please specify)


Please put reference “FOOD PACKAGES” on your communication when making the donation.  All donation earmarked “FOOD PACKAGES” will go towards the Help Migrant Workers Programme in Bangladesh. Once the donation has been made, we would really appreciate if you could send us an e-mail with your full name and donation amount. If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Thank you for your support!






[1] During the first quarter of 2020, the following number of vessels were broken in other locations: 26 in Turkey, 6 in China, 5 in Europe and 3 in the rest of the world.


[2] YPSA’s Press Release