The Toxic Tide – 2023 Shipbreaking Records


The shipping industry continues to exploit workers and the environment for profit


According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 446 ocean-going commercial ships and floating offshore units were sold to the scrap yards in 2024. Of these, 325 of the largest tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships ended up on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to more than 85% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.


Last year, at least 6 workers lost their lives when breaking apart vessels on the beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh, and another 19 were severely injured. Some of these accidents took place onboard vessels owned by well-known shipping companies, such as Polaris Shipping and Polys Haji-Ioannou Group.



"We have been witnessing this environmental and human rights scandal for too long. All ship owners are aware of the dire situation at the beaching yards and the lack of capacity to safely handle the many toxic materials onboard vessels. Yet, with the help of scrap dealers, the vast majority choose to scrap their end-of-life fleet in South Asia as that is where they can make the highest profits."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform


Explore our Data Visualisation and read our Press Release.



Press Release – NGOs call EU’s intent to export toxic ships to developing countries illegal and contrary to aims of Green Deal

The Basel Action Network (BAN), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Greenpeace, and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, leading organisations active in the pursuit of preventing the environmental injustice caused by the dumping of hazardous waste, warn that the European Union's legislation allowing the export of toxic ships to developing countries violates Member States’ obligations under the Basel Convention and is in contradiction with the EU's new strategic economic and environmental policy initiatives.


In a new report entitled Contradiction in Terms: European Union must align its ship exports with International Law and Green Deal Policies, the NGOs call upon the EU to take urgent action to reform both the Waste Shipment Regulation and the Ship Recycling Regulation to ensure they are legally consistent with the international Basel Convention. They note with concern that proposals have been made for the EU to enter into a special bilateral agreement with certain shipbreaking states (e.g. India) as a supposed legitimate means to circumvent the Basel Convention’s Ban Amendment, which entered into global force last December [1]. Bolstered by a new analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) [2], the report explains why that is not acceptable both from a legal standpoint and as a matter of policy. 

"Put simply, the EU procedure of filling out paperwork and permitting toxic ships to go to the beaches of South Asia for the purposes of their disposal/recycling can never be an equivalent level of control and protection as a rule that bans such export. Now that the Ban Amendment is in force, it is binding international law. Shipbreaking yards in developing countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can therefore not be placed on the EU’s list of approved ship recycling destinations. "
Jim Puckett - Executive Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)

In light of the new European Green Deal - and at a time when 1) EU waste law is being recast to ‘facilitate preparing for re-use and recycling of waste in the EU’ and ‘restrict exports of waste that have harmful environmental and health impacts in third countries; 2) the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan calls for ensuring that the EU does not export its waste challenges to third countries; and 3) the recently published Foresight 2020 report identifies the need for greater resilience in providing more green jobs in the EU - it seems especially incoherent for the EU to rely on faulty legal argumentation that would defeat the intent and purpose of the Ban Amendment while undermining the EU's strategic economic and environmental policy initiatives. 

"Such action will send a signal to the rest of the world that the EU is not serious about a responsible circular economy and international law. By allowing the breaking of European vessels in the Global South, Europe is not only exporting hazardous waste and threatening people’s health in developing countries, but also contradicting its own ambition to boost the domestic supply of secondary raw materials – as set out in its circular economy action plan. EU leaders must focus on reprocessing, reusing and recycling valuable materials, particularly steel, within Europe."
Stéphane Arditi - Circular Economy Policy Manager - European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

The NGOs call on the EU to seize the opportunity to boost safe and clean ship recycling in Europe, as well as to promote the design and building of toxic-free vessels and to push for ‘zero-emissions steel’ initiatives [3]. Such actions would enable Europe to offer proper recovery solutions for ships from all over the world.

"We fear that the EU is just fine with human rights, environmental treaties and a ‘green deal’ until it impacts the bottom line of powerful industrial interests. Instead of inventing exceptions to international law, we expect the EU to support its recycling sector and safeguard the environmental justice principles that it championed when supporting the Basel Ban Amendment - and now has put at the heart of its new Green Deal."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



[1] The Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention, championed early on by the EU and now enshrined in international waste law, bans hazardous wastes of all kinds from being exported from developed to developing countries. The Basel Convention has already ruled that operational ships can be considered as hazardous wastes due to the many toxics embedded within their structure.  Yet, current EU law allows EU flagged vessels to be exported to any destination on an EU approved ship recycling facility list, regardless of whether it is a developing country or not.  


[2] The CIEL analysis explains that the Basel Convention does not allow reservations or exceptions, and only allows special separate agreements if they provide an "equivalent level of control."


[3] See Material Economics’ report Industrial Transformation 2050.


Platform News – Carnival Corporation commits to sustainable ship recycling

NGOs commend cruise shipping giant Carnival Corporation for its recent decision to support clean, safe and just ship recycling. The American ship owner has worked with the Platform’s member organisation Bellona Foundation and Dutch company Sea2Cradle for the development of a comprehensive ship recycling plan for two of its retired vessels.


The CARNIVAL FANTASY and the CARNIVAL INSPIRATION will be scrapped at yards Simsekler and Ege Celik, located in Turkey. Both recycling facilities meet the environmental and safety standards set out in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, which became applicable on 31 December 2018 and provides the only reliable auditing scheme for clean and safe recycling.

"Bellona Foundation welcomes Carnival Corporation's decision to responsibly recycle their retired ships in Turkey, and we applaud them for their commitment to responsible management throughout the lifecycle of their ships. Dismantling a cruise ship is complex, involving many components for reuse, recycling and waste for disposal. Carnival Corporation's commitment to recycling in a proper way to avoid pollution and to safeguard the environment shows leadership."
Sigurd Enge - Shipping & Arctic - Bellona Foundation

The scrapping operations will be closely monitored on the ground by ship recycling consultants Sea2Cradle. With over twenty years of experience in sustainable ship recycling, they will ensure that all health, safety and environmental measures are followed.


Carnival Corporation is not the only cruise company that has been forced to downsize its fleet. The entire cruise sector is severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many ship owners taking steps to reduce operating expenses, including the retirement of relatively young ships. According to shipping databases, at least five cruises have already been sent for scrapping in the last seven months. In June, Carnival’s subsidiary Costa sold the COSTA VICTORIA to Genova Industrie Navali-controlled San Giorgio del Porto, which will now likely take care of pre-recycling operations at a yard in Piombino, Italy. Last month, Pullmantur sent MONARCH and SOVEREIGN cruises for scrapping in Turkey. Rumours are that German TUI’s MARELLA CELEBRATION might also head soon towards the breakers. In 2018, its sister ship MARELLA SPIRIT was illegally exported  from Greek territorial waters for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia in violation of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation.


"Carnival Corporation’s decision shows that it is possible to scrap ships off the beach. Ship owners have a duty of care with regards to the safe management of their end-of-life fleet, and we strongly advise other owners to follow Carnival’s example to avoid putting workers, the environment and their own company at risk. Opting for a facility that is on the EU List is the best safeguard a concerned owner can take."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #22

There were a total of 98 ships broken in the second quarter of 2020. Of these, 60 ships were sold to the beaches of South Asia, where, despite the majority of yards being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, shipbreaking kept putting workers’ lives at risk. Between April and June, at least 3 workers were severely injured in Bangladesh.



On April 24, Jalal (35) suffered an accident at Habib Steel shipbreaking yard. He got injured while carrying oxygen bottles from inside the ship.  


According to local sources and media, worker Md. Khalil (45) got injured on April 28 at an unauthorised shipbreaking yard recently opened by lawmaker Didarul Alam. Khalil’s leg broke after a hatch cover fell on him while dismantling the vessel Berge Eiger, owned by shipping company Berge Bulk. The worker was transferred to the Dhaka Hospital due to the severity of the injury. 


On June 22, an accident took place during an illegal night shift at Jumuna Ship Breakers yard. Abdul Halim (24) was hit by an iron piece in the stomach while cutting the vessel Stellar Knight, owned by South Korean Polaris Shipping. It took a couple of hours for the worker to be transported to the nearest hospital.


In the second quarter of 2020, Greek ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, closely followed by Singaporean and South Korean owners. South Korean company Polaris Shipping sold three vessels to Bangladesh for dirty and dangerous breaking. The ship owner hit the headlines in June for the scuttling of the ore carrier STELLAR BANNER off the coast of Brazil.


In April, we urged Bangladesh to halt the import of a highly toxic offshore unit that had illegally departed from Indonesia. The Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker J. NAT left Indonesian waters even though local activists warned Indonesian authorities about the toxicity of the vessel. Following our actions and local media reports, the government of Bangladesh directed all departments concerned not to allow the ship to enter Bangladeshi territory. Maritime databases seem to indicate that the vessel reversed course and changed name to RADIANT. However, its current whereabouts are unknown. 


Almost one third of the ships sold to South Asia this quarter changed flag to the registries of Comoros, 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 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.


How Covid-19 is affecting vulnerable shipbreaking workers


The pandemic is still affecting workers globally, including those employed in the shipbreaking sector in South Asia. 




According to local sources, all shipbreaking yards resumed their activities on June 1. One third of them never shut down despite the lockdown, exposing the workers to the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it in the vulnerable local communities.


Having been deprived of accessing government support, which is offered only to local workers, migrant workers have been unable to return to their home villages due to the absence of public transport services. Forced to continue to pay rent for the unsanitary and improper accommodation near the shipbreaking yards, migrant workers, mainly from the Northwest of Bangladesh, have been left to starve. This unprecedented emergency situation led us to raise financial support to distribute, in partnership with our member organisation OSHE, food and personal protective equipment items to 130 of the most deprived shipbreaking workers’ families in Sitakunda. 




After a month since the start of the national lockdown in India, the government announced the reopening of several industries in Gujarat. At the end of June, around 30% of the workforce was working at the shipbreaking yards in Alang. The fact that around 75% the migrant workers returned to their home villages in Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra has led the yard owners to look at the diamond sector’s unemployed workers from Saurashtra.


Platform News – NGO Shipbreaking Platform awarded grant by Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded a grant by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Lloyd's Register Foundation under the international collaboration Engineering X - Safer End of Engineered Life Mission. The grant will support a project, in partnership with our member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), that aims at increasing public awareness of the current shipbreaking practices on the beaches of South Asia, including workers’ rights in Bangladesh, as well as at pushing for an industry shift towards truly sustainable practices.

"We thank the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Lloyd's Register Foundation for the support. This award will strengthen our work at national level for increased transparency and business accountability in the shipbreaking sector and for protection of the labourers from occupational hazards."
Syeda Rizwana Hasan - Supreme Court lawyer and Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association

Engineering X has awarded nearly £1 million in grants to six projects in the UK and overseas aimed at tackling the complex social, environmental and engineering challenges of decommissioning ships and offshore structures. The Platform features as partner also in another project led by the University of Southampton.


With a broad base of supporters both in orientation and geographically, including membership in ship owning as well as shipbreaking countries, the Platform plays an important role in promoting solutions that encompass the respect of human rights, corporate responsibility and environmental justice. If you share our vision, contact us to find out how we can work together.


Platform News – Platform’s member BELA awarded the 2020 Tang Prize

We are pleased to announce that the NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Tang Prize in Rule of Law for its exemplary perseverance in promoting greater environmental justice, in milieus where the foundations of the rule of law are under severe challenge.


Established in 1992 by Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque, BELA promotes environmental justice and has secured sound environmental jurisprudence in Bangladesh through public interest litigation, advocacy, research and publications, as well as capacity-building for actors in the public sector and civil society.


Ever since the first case, Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque v. Bangladesh & Others in 1994, BELA has initiated more than 250 public interest litigations and advocated for legislative reform for environmental justice. Issues drawn within its ambit have ranged as widely as river pollution, industrial pollution, vehicular pollution, illegal construction, labour welfare, illegal mining, prevention of soil erosion, reduction of plastic use, wetland protection and prevention of pollution from shipbreaking. The latter was the focus of a recent ground-breaking judgement given by the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in a public interest litigation filed by  BELA.


By persuading the courts to recognise its standing to instigate a case on behalf of people affected by environmental degradation, BELA successfully opened the path for public interest litigation. BELA also moved the courts to extend the fundamental right to life to cover the right to a decent environment under the Constitution.


The Tang Prize is a set of biennial international awards bestowed by  the Taiwanese Tang Prize Foundation in four fields: Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. The 2020 Tang Prize in Rule of Law,  was also awarded to Colombian Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society and Lebanese The Legal Agenda.


Platform News – NGO Shipbreaking Platform presents Impact Report 2018/2019

These past two years the Platform has won support for sustainable ship recycling in the financial sector while raising the stakes for ship owners who opt for substandard shipbreaking on South Asian beaches. Effectively exposing the conditions behind the greenwash of the Indian yards, while our member organisations empowered workers in Bangladesh, we were thrilled last year to see new laws enter into force that will deter ship owners from dangerous scrapping in favour of sustainable ship recycling.


Thanks to the support of our funders, Board of Directors, Members, Partners and individuals that have backed our work in 2018/2019 and beyond, we have been able to reach some of the important milestones of our campaign!


As we move forward, the Platform has an important role to play in promoting solutions that encompass the respect of human rights, corporate responsibility and environmental justice. To ensure that safe and clean ship recycling becomes the norm, and not the exception, the Platform will continue to inform policy makers, financial and corporate leaders, as well as researchers and journalists. Change in shipbreaking will come through leadership, incentives and accountability.


We remain optimistic in this challenging time, and, more than ever, we are committed to working with vulnerable workers and communities to reverse the environmental harm and human rights abuses caused by current shipbreaking practices. Will you join us? We need your support to fulfil our mission!


Download the Platform’s Impact Report 2018/2019 here or by clicking the image above.


Platform News – NGOs distribute emergency food to shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting workers globally, including those employed in the shipbreaking sector. In Bangladesh, authorities have imposed strict lockdowns which have particularly impacted the most vulnerable part of the workforce: the migrant workers. Deprived of accessing the meagre government support which is offered to local workers, and in most cases not having been paid their March salaries, migrant workers have furthermore been unable to return to their home villages as all public transport is closed. Forced to continue to pay rent for the unsanitary and improper accommodation near the shipbreaking yards, the migrant workers, mainly from the Northwest of Bangladesh, have been left to starve.


Given this unprecedented emergency situation, we decided to act. Thanks to the financial support received via our call for donations, our local member organisation OSHE Foundation managed to distribute food and personal protective equipment items to 130 of the most deprived shipbreaking workers’ families. Each family, comprising at least four members, received a package containing rice, potatoes, wheat flour, dal (dried, split pulses), cooking oil, salt, sugar, tea, potato, onion, chana dal (chickpeas), moori (puffed rice), one re-usable face mask and hand soap, ensuring subsistence for at least 10 to 15 days.


Work has been stopped for many days. We are having a hard time with our families. I can't get any help from anywhere. Such support from OSHE at this time has saved us. We will be able to spend the next days in peace”, said a worker named Quddus.


Krishna, a worker who lost his leg due to an accident at the shipbreaking yards, said: “I can't work due to my injury. My wife runs the household by doing some sewing work. It goes without saying that there is no work now because of Corona. I have two children. I already had to borrow some money to support the family. Now, I don't have to worry about food for the next 15 days. This is a happy day for my family”.


Shafi, one of the many victims of asbestos exposure, added: “I am suffering from asbestosis. I am the only one earning in the family. I can’ t always work because of my condition. I was feeling helpless in the present situation. This help from OSHE at such a time has saved me and my family”.


Whilst most of the shipbreaking yards in Chattogram remain closed, some have re-started cutting operations. According to local trade unions, these yards are not paying properly and the government assistance which local workers have received is negligible compared to the need.

"With the food packages distributed by OSHE, at least the workers are not compelled and exploited to go back to the yards and risk exposure to not only the extremely contagious COVID-19 virus in a society where many are deprived of accessing proper medical care, but also to the many dangers shipbreaking involves."
Sara Rita Da Costa - Project Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform campaigns for safe and clean recycling and believes that ship owners have the responsibility to ensure that neither workers, nor the environment, and the communities that depend upon it, are harmed. The situation at the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh is particularly dire: the many accidents - fatal and serious injuries - are telling of the appalling working conditions. The fact that workers are not paid or provided support during the COVID-19 lockdown is also telling of a completely lacking safety net, both from employers' and government level.


Once again, we express our gratitude for the support received via the donations, which made possible the distribution of emergency food assistance to more than  during this unprecedented and challenging period.


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