Platform News – Indian NGOs voice concerns as ship owners promote beaching

Indian NGOs voice serious concerns regarding the beaching of end-of-life vessels in Alang in reaction to the recent visit to the Alang shipbreaking yards organised by ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Association). Late in April, the European ship owners had invited government representatives from France, Germany and Belgium, as well as the European Commission to a promotional tour of Alang. NGOs, including the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its Indian members, were not allowed to join the visit. Additionally, ECSA did not take the time to meet with the local trade union or the affected workers themselves.

"ECSA should be aware of the fact that environmental groups in India remain very critical with regards to the state of the shipbreaking industry in Alang. None of the yards in Alang have to undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA) even when they open new yards or set up new infrastructure. EIAs are required by the law, and they would ensure a transparent process, including a proper assessment of the environmental impacts of the industry, as well as allow for civil society and local communities such as fishermen to express their views."
Ritwick Dutta - Advocate - Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE)

Indian NGOs are concerned about the negative environmental impact of dismantling end-of-life vessels in the intertidal zone where large amounts of debris, including toxic paint chips, are released, accumulate in the environment and are washed out by the tide. Moreover, the secondary cutting areas, which have been concreted in some of the beaching yards, show cracks in the surface, which raises doubts as to whether they can qualify as impermeable floors.

"The shipping industry often forgets that shipbreaking is not only about recycling, but also generates hazardous wastes that need to be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. However, in India, the enforcement of hazardous waste rules is not very effective and systems for tracking waste are inadequate. This results in leakages of hazardous waste. There is also no incinerator available to destroy PCBs. Moreover: why should India be responsible for the disposal of hazardous wastes belonging to foreign ship owners?"
Satish Sinha - Toxic Links

Local environmental groups have submitted letters to the European Commission highlighting pollution caused by the beaching method, the lack of transparent and adequate downstream management, as well as labour rights violations. The letters sent by Gujarati NGOs Paryavaran Mitra and Machimar Adhikar Sangarsh Sangstha welcome that the EU has taken “a strong stance against the continued acceptance of breaking ships directly on the beach”, a practice which is banned in other parts of the world, as the local environmentalists argue.


ECSA and its members have found a convenient solution in referring to the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), an IMO Convention that is unlikely to enter into force any day soon: the HKC does not ban the beaching method and it does not introduce strict rules on downstream waste management. Moreover, anyone can hand out Statements of Compliance (SOCs) to shipbreaking yards claiming they operate in line with the convention. While some certifiers act with more diligence, others have started to offer cheaper and quicker certifications. It is expected that many yards will soon hold a HKC compliance certificate. This is a development similar to ISO 30.000, for which most yards in India and Bangladesh were quick to produce certificates, rendering the standard meaningless.

"We share the Gujarat-based NGOs’ concerns and demand that European ship owners do not settle for double standards. Ship owners should only use facilities that operate at a level which is accepted in the European Union. We and our Indian partners believe that the environment, local communities and workers in India deserve the same level of protection which is reflected in the European Ship Recycling Regulation."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



Platform News – Shooting and fatal accidents at Kabir shipbreaking: Belgian ship owner CMB, Greek Kanellakis Group and Standard Chartered linked

Standard Chartered Bank, Belgian ship owner CMB / Bocimar as well as the Greek Kanellakis Group are linked to Kabir Steel, a Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard and re-rolling mill with a particularly bad accident record where private security guards shot at locals protesting the death of worker Sumon on 28 March [1]. The leading Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard has analysed CMB’s substandard shipbreaking practices in a two page article published last Friday showing how the Antwerp-based shipping company uses cash buyers to rid itself of financial and legal risks. The Platform calls on these European companies to ensure that their value chain neither contributes to such negative human rights impacts nor to hazardous waste dumping and pollution in Bangladesh.


Whilst NGOs and international trade unions have called upon the police to impartially investigate the circumstances of the recent shooting episode at Kabir Steel, it is no secret that the Chittagong-based firm, which runs shipbreaking yards at two different plots as well as a local steel re-rolling mill, has a particularly bad accident record. In January 2014, three workers suffered severe burn injuries in an explosion on a tanker beached at the yard. Only after Platform members took up their case did the men receive treatment and support. The case received both local and international media attention, and the CEO of the Norwegian ship owner Teekay Corporation, whose vessel was involved in the incident, publicly stated that the company will stop selling ships to substandard yards. Early in 2014, two more workers, Jafar and Lipton, were injured and taken to hospital. In August 2014, worker Afzal died in the hospital after an accident at Kabir, and a second, unidentified man suffered injuries. In September 2014, 20 year old Asad Mia was killed at Kabir’s re-rolling mill to which the scrap steel is taken.


The London-headquartered Standard Chartered bank has, according to local informants, been issuing letters of credit or loans to Kabir Steel for the import of end-of-life vessels. The Platform has sent a letter to Standard Chartered’s management asking why the bank is working with a yard that clearly operates in breach of Standard Chartered’s own ship recycling policy: according to this policy the bank will only work with yards that meet international workers’ rights and environmental protection standards.

"None of the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh operate in line with international standards for the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste as there are no waste treatment facilities available. Occupational health and safety measures are absent or inadequate as accidents regularly show. Most workers do not receive a living wage and any protest against the conditions can easily lead to losing one’s job. We do not believe that a bank such as Standard Chartered should be associated to such practices. [2]"
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Leading banks, amongst them ABN AMRO, are cooperating with companies to invest in sustainable ship recycling in industrial platforms.


Also major European shipping companies are linked to the dangerous and dirty shipbreaking practices at Kabir Steel. The end-of life vessels currently being scrapped on the beach of Kabir Steel shipbreaking are the ALPHA FRIENDSHIP and the MINERAL WATER. The ALPHA FRIENDSHIP’s was sold to Kabir Steel for scrapping by Greek Kanellakis Group with the help of cash buyer Wirana. The ship owner is part of a group of shipping companies controlled by the influential Kanellakis and Angelicoussis family. The vessel arrived in Bangladesh this January while still registered under the Greek flag.

"The EU Ship Recycling Regulation sets high standards for ship recycling, and once it becomes applicable end-of-life sales like this will constitute a clear breach of European law. Greek owners top the list of worst end-of-life ship dumpers. It is high time that the Greek Government holds its shipping industry accountable for practices that put peoples’ lives and the environment in danger."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The MINERAL WATER was sold to Kabir Steel by Belgian ship owner CMB N.V. S.A. and its wholly-owned Belgian subsidiary Bocimar International with the help of cash buyer Western Overseas. CMB is an Antwerp-based company specialised in bulk carriers. It is controlled by the well-known Saverys family who also holds major stakes in other leading Belgian ship-owning companies, Exmar, Euronav and Delphis. The MINERAL WATER swapped its Belgian flag to that of Niue just weeks before hitting the beach in Chittagong mid-February. Niue, a Pacific island with around 2000 inhabitants, is on the European Union’s blacklist of the world’s 30 worst-offending tax havens and has recently come up as a new low-cost flag of convenience for end-of-life vessels.

"The example of the CMB vessel shows how easy it is for ship owners to circumvent any regulation based on flag state jurisdiction. Flag of convenience states such as Niue are not likely to strictly enforce or even ratify international law. The real ship-owning nations such as Belgium cannot continue to rely on tax havens and substandard shipbreaking countries to ensure sustainable ship recycling. At the European level a financial incentive to ensure better practices is being discussed – Belgium and other Member States should support this."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The Platform is calling upon the European Union, where more than 40% of the world fleet is controlled, to ensure that ship owners cannot further exploit underpaid workers exposed to extremely dangerous working conditions and the absence of properly enforced environmental protection standards.





[1] As reported by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform , private security guards employed by Kabir Steel shipbreaking, injured at least seven workers and locals when they gathered at the yard’s gate in protest of the death of Summon. The young man had been killed when he was hit by a truck transporting material from the shipbreaking yard. The yard management had first refused responsibility for the accident as the truck was owned by another company. The Platform and its local member organisations as well as Bangladeshi and international trade unions have strongly criticized the use of violence against protestors. They have both called on Kabir Steel to pay compensation owed to the victim’s family, and on the police and judiciary to properly and independently investigate the case to bring those responsible to justice. Meanwhile, Kabir has paid compensation to the victim’s family and those injured by bullets.


[2] For more information on the conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, see short video by National Geographic.



One of the victims, worker Afzal, who died at Kabir Steel mill in 2014



Press Release – European ship owners on promotional tour in Alang – environmental and human rights activists denied access

Tomorrow, European ship owners, government representatives of France, Germany and Belgium, and the European Commission will visit the Alang shipbreaking yards. Despite several indications that NGOs, including the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, would be part of the delegation, no NGO was invited to join in the end.

"We were clearly not welcome to join this visit. Critical civil society voices are not wanted in Alang – neither by ship owners, nor by the yards – this confirms the lack of transparency under which the yards in Alang operate."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The delegation will also not meet trade union representatives or workers, and will only visit a selection of very few yards. The visit is organised by industry association ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Association) that represents the interests of European ship owners. It is an attempt by both ship owners and certain yards in India to convince European policy makers that yards in Alang should be approved for the upcoming EU list of accepted ship recycling facilities. However, under the European Ship Recycling Regulation and the recently published technical guidelines on the requirements for ship recycling facilities, it is clear that beaching facilities do not qualify for the EU list.


With regards to tomorrow’s visit, local environmental groups have raised several concerns related to the deplorable working conditions, poor downstream waste management and continued pollution of the coastal waters in Alang.

"We share the Gujarat-based NGOs’ concerns and demand that European ship owners do not settle for double standards. European ship owners should only use facilities that operate at a level which is accepted in the European Union. The low-cost method of beaching will not feature on the EU list."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
Photo by Adam Cohn - - Ship Breaking Detritus, Alang Shipyards, 2015



Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #9

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform publishes today the ninth South Asia Quarterly Update, a briefing paper in which it informs about the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Providing an overview of vessels broken on the beaches of South Asia, accidents, recent on-the-ground, legislative and political developments including our activities in South Asia, we aim to inform the public about the negative impacts of substandard shipbreaking practices as well as positive steps aimed at the realisation of environmental justice and the protection of workers’ rights.


In this edition you will find out more about several accidents in the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh and a revived High Court order, the effects of the European Union standard for sustainable ship recycling, and the story of the illegal export of the Horizon Trader. In the first quarter of 2016, 239 large commercial vessels were sold for breaking, 189 of these were beached in South Asia. So far this year at least seven workers have lost their lives at the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh.


Press Release – Bangladesh High Court issues contempt rule against 14 Government Officials: ministries and shipbreakers asked to account for non-compliance with 2009 judgement

The Bangladesh High Court yesterday issued a contempt rule asking 14 Government officials and the president of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA) to explain why they have not implemented the Court’s judgement dating March 2009. The Court now demands arguments from the respondents as to why they should not be held responsible for contempt of the court’s rulings and “for deliberately and persistently ignoring safety of the workers and safety and integrity of the environment”. The Government was also meant to form an independent committee for the impartial supervision of the shipbreaking activities. The Court decision is the result of a contempt petition submitted by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), the Platform member organisation that has been fighting in the courts against the shipbreaking industry’s violation of the law since 2003.

"This step taken by the High Court fundamentally challenges the apathy of the Government agencies in regulating the shipbreaking sector as well as the strong culture of impunity the owners of ship‎breaking yards enjoy due to their political connections. This must end. We cannot accept any more deaths of labourers and someone has to finally take responsibility for the fatal accidents."
Rizwana Hasan - Chief Executive - Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)

BELA has also asked the Court to suspend the activities of 42 shipbreaking yards. In the case of 37 yards, BELA has accused the companies of unsafe working conditions resulting in accidents and deaths, and for 7 yards BELA has provided information on how these companies violate the requirements for their environmental clearances. BELA is gathering more evidence so the number of yards to be closed is likely to raise even further.

"Despite the high-profile Court order given in March 2009, both the shipbreaking industry and responsible ministries have remained inactive in addressing the pressing issues related to both occupational health and safety and to environmental pollution and hazardous waste dumping. We insist that they will not be allowed to get off lightly yet another time."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In March 2009, the High Court had ruled that the Government is to set up a committee to ensure the impartial supervision of the shipbreaking industry. The Court also found that the shipbreaking yards did not hold the necessary environmental clearance to operate. As a consequence, the yards were temporarily shut down. The Court demanded that the Government comply with the requirements under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. This included the respect for Prior Informed Consent (PIC), that is, the approval by Bangladesh of the import of ships based on the amount of toxics on board the end-of-life vessels.


The political clout of the shipbreaking industry, amongst them members of Parliament and other powerful politicians as well as some of the most influential industrialists in the country, managed hastily issued environmental clearances for their yards. For the import of end-of-life vessels to Bangladesh, the authorities blindly accept fake certificates stating that all the old ships are free of hazardous waste. The authorities never ask anyone to follow the procedure of Prior Informed Consent. The independent Committee, which according to the Court should also include non-government organisations and labour unions, has never been made functional – thus, there is no impartial supervision of the industry. BELA argues that at least 93 workers have died since the 2009 Court order. All this has passed without consequences.


Both the shipbreaking industry and the Government of Bangladesh are now asked to give account of their actions. If they fail to produce sufficient arguments, responsible persons are likely to be sentenced and yards may be closed down.


Click here to access The Daily Star's article covering the issue.


Workers without personal protective equipment, Chittagong shipyards, 2014 Copyrights: NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 2014



Platform News – European Union sets a global standard for sustainable ship recycling: NGOs call on shipping companies to use EU approved yards

Today, the European Commission (EC) publishes technical guidance for ship recycling facilities that want to be approved under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. The European Union (EU) mirrors with this step the call by environmental and human rights NGOs for a relocation of ship recycling to platforms that can ensure sustainable practices. Facilities that intend to be listed as EU-approved will need to ensure safe working conditions, pollution control including proper downstream waste management and enforcement of international labour rights.

"Recycling yards that want to make it on the EU list of approved facilities need to meet high environmental and safety standards. The EC is clear in its message: an unprotected beach is never going to be an appropriate place for a high-risk heavy industry involving hazardous waste management."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

According to the EU, ship recycling is an industrial activity that needs industrial methods, equipment and standards. Workers and the environment anywhere in the world have the same right to protection under the EU Regulation. Attempts by some Member States with strong shipping interests to water down the requirements of the Regulation, more specifically, to accept low-cost beaching facilities in South Asia as environmentally friendly and safe for workers in order to make it on the list, have not been successful.


The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities [1] will become a global reference point for sustainable ship recycling. It rewards the companies that already have or are willing to invest in the necessary infrastructure and the employment of fully trained workers to ensure safe and environmentally sound recycling practices. The yards responsible shipping companies such as Hapag Lloyd, Wilhelmsen, Grieg and Royal Dutch Boskalis work with in Europe, China and Turkey will most likely feature on the EU list after having provided evidence that they comply with the requirements and in some cases also having improved their practices in order to meet the European standard. By promising to clearly distinguishing good from bad practices [2], the EU list has also already prompted the establishment of new facilities that see opportunities for an increased market share.


For ship owners, the EU list will be the only guarantee that their end-of-life vessels are not causing harm to workers and the environment. Backed by ‘independent verifiers with qualifications’ and audits by the EC or agents acting on its behalf, a further important warranty lays in the right NGOs have to submit complaints and concerns to the EC regarding the functioning of a facility and with that prompt an on-site visit to establish whether the facility should be removed from the list.

"While only vessels sailing under an EU flag will be legally obliged to use an EU approved facility, any shipping company around the world with a responsible policy can use the EU listed facilities to prove their effort."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



[1] The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities is expected to be published by the end of 2016. Applications from facilities that want to feature on the first batch of the list need to be sent to the EC by 1 July 2016.


[2] Unlike the industry driven International Maritime Organisation (IMO) the EU is not rubberstamping the unnecessarily risky activity of managing reverse logistics of ship material management on a beach.
The EU requirements go beyond the IMO’s Hong Kong Convention (HKC), a piece of law which was adopted in 2009, but so far has only been ratified by four countries and is unlikely to enter into force in due time. More than 100 global environmental and human rights organisations, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics and European policy makers have denounced the HKC for merely rubberstamping the status quo.



Platform News – Violence reaches new level: shipbreaking yard’s private security personnel fire shots and injure seven people

In the morning of 28 March, shipbreaking worker Sumon was killed on a private road inside Kabir Steel yard located North of Bangladesh’s major port city, Chittagong. His brother, who works at the yard as well, was seriously injured in the same accident. According to local sources, Sumon was run over by a truck transporting steel plates from the yard. When a local government representative reached the yard to claim the legal compensation owed to the victim’s family, the yard management refused to take responsibility for the accident with the argument that the truck was owned and operated by another company.


At around 11 a.m., locals together with family members gathered outside the yard in protest and blocked traffic on the highway. They claimed, according to the English daily newspaper The Daily Star that the company was withholding Sumon’s body inside the yard. The private security personnel employed by the shipbreaking yard started shooting at the group. According to Bangladeshi newspapers, one of Kabir Steel’s guards injured seven people.

"This course of action represents unnecessary use of violence against unarmed protestors and it shows the climate of violence surrounding the shipbreaking yards. Locals and workers protesting the conditions in the yards obviously put their lives in danger in an atmosphere in which shipbreaking yards feel entitled to shoot at people."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Tariqul Islam of the local police station said that the accused security guards were detained. Moreover, the Financial Express Bangladesh reported that the police seized a gun and several rounds of bullets at the yard.

"The incident shows how non-transparent this industry is. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its local members now expect that the police investigates this case properly. We demand rightful punishment of those responsible for the blood shed."
Rizwana Hasan - Chief Executive - Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)
"We expect that the family of the dead worker receives its due compensation as fast as possible instead of being caught up in an argument between two companies pushing away responsibility."
Muhammed Ali Shahin - Bangladesh Coordinator - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

So far, the compensation claim has not been settled.


Kabir Steel’s shipbreaking yard is part of the large industrial conglomerate of Kabir Group of Industries. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has documented several severe and fatal accidents in the yard over the last years. In 2014 alone, when the yard had the highest recorded number of accidents amongst all Bangladeshi shipbreakers, at least 2 workers were killed and six more severely injured at Kabir Steel’s shipbreaking yard and re-rolling mill in four different accidents. This included the case of three workers who suffered severe burn wounds all over their bodies after an explosion on a Norwegian-owned oil tanker used by Teekay Corporation. In another accident in the same yard, on 30 March 2016, cutter helper Md. Abdus Salam fell down from a beached vessel due to the lack of safety measures at work. As a result, he suffered serious injuries including several fractures in his arms and legs.

"The sad accidents record is proof of the fact that Kabir Steel does not ensure safer working conditions, does not comply with proper safety procedures, uses untrained workers, lacks proper infrastructure to guarantee occupational health and safety and does not organise the legally binding Safety Committee at yard level."
Repon Chowdhury - Executive Director - Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE)

The Platform welcomes that IndustriAll Global Union has sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. It joins the trade union’s call for proper investigation and for the rightful punishment of both negligent yard owners and of security guards for the bodily assault of protestors.


Sumon and the other workers at Kabir Steel have been hired to dismantle the Greek-owned and Greek-flagged bulk carrier Alpha Friendship. The Athens-based owner Alpha Tankers obviously does not take care of responsible ship recycling. The Platform will take up this case to illustrate the necessity for the EU and its Member States to better regulate ship owners’ sub-standard shipbreaking practices.


Click here to access IndustriALL’s press release on the incident.

Click here to access The Daily Star's article covering the incident.


Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Copyrights: NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 2014



Press Release – Maersk end-of-life vessels to hit the beaches again. NGOs denounce container ship company’s step back to boost profits

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Transport and Environment (T&E) denounce Maersk Group’s decision to beach their end-of-life vessels in India [1]. The world’s leading container ship owner was previously guided by a progressive policy on ship recycling: its old vessels were dismantled in modern ship recycling facilities in either China, Turkey or Europe. Maersk’s decision to resort to the low-cost beaching method in India undermines European efforts to improve global conditions and the company’s position as industry leader.

"Maersk estimates they can realise an additional 1-2 million USD per ship by onselling to dismantling companies in India. It is hypocritical to see Maersk’s engagement in India presented proudly in the company’s CSR Report as one that aims at promoting higher standards. The fact is that they are already selling ships now to facilities that operate under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe - they admit themselves that the decision to go to India is primarily taken to make their financial report look better."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The Platform had welcomed Maersk’s initial idea to set up a long-term cooperation with stakeholders in India provided that the objective was to set up a modern ship recycling facility in line with the safety and environmental requirements set out by the European Ship Recycling Regulation. However, the hasty decision to sell off end-of-life vessels to Alang shows that the decision is merely driven by profits. In times of low freight rates, Maersk intends to boost its profits by selling to yards that do not comply with European standards.


All yards in Alang dismantle vessels in the intertidal zone. This means that ships are broken in an unprotected marine environment – a method which has been identified at the international level as one that needs to be phased-out and that European law has banned. Environmental concerns remain linked to the abrasion of toxic paints during the beaching process and when cut-off blocks and hulls are winched further up the beach, oil spills and the release of slag and paints chips into the water, and the debris created by the gravity method when blocks crash down on the intertidal zone.


Moreover, working and living conditions in Alang remain inadequate. The lack of decent accommodation will not be solved before the first Maersk vessels arrives in Alang, nor will there be access to a proper hospital specialised in accidents and burn wounds. Maersk seems also to ignore the lacunae of proper downstream waste management in India: asbestos-containing materials can and are re-sold freely and PCBs cannot be properly destroyed. These issues are not dealt with by the Hong Kong Convention - for European Union approval these problems will however need to be addressed.

"The situation in Alang is not ‘fantastic’ as stated by Maersk. Similar conditions would not be accepted in Denmark, in any other shipping nation in Europe, or in the shipping hubs in East Asia. By selling ships to the Alang beach, Maersk is externalising costs for proper recycling and undermining the standard set by the European Ship Recycling Regulation. We expected visionary leadership from Maersk and that their CSR report boasted support for the setting up of a truly modern ship recycling facility in India. Instead they are rubberstamping practices that they previously denounced."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
Photo by Adam Cohn - - Kicking an Oil Drum, Alang Shipyards, 2015




[1] Maersk has stated in Danish press that several of their ships will be sold to the beach of Alang in the coming six months.



Press Release – NGO publishes 2015 list of all ships dismantled worldwide

Ship owners found to be irresponsible: data on shipbreaking practices in 2015 reveal appalling record

Click here to download the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2015


Ignoring industry leaders and human rights and environmental organisations, ship owners continue to profit from dangerous and dirty shipbreaking practices on South Asian beaches in 2015, according to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. 768 large ocean-going vessels were sold to the scrap yards last year. 469 were broken on the beaches of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh where shipbreaking yards do not provide fundamental labour rights, ignore international waste trade law, and fail to respect international environmental protection standards.


One of many accidents that killed or maimed shipbreaking workers last year was a major gas explosion at Shitol Enterprise, a shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh. A gas cylinder burst killed four workers immediately and severely injured another four. The vessel they were breaking was sold to Shitol Enterprise by the Greek shipping company Universal Ship Management Corporation, and sailed under the flag of St. Kitts and Nevis, a typical low-cost, end-of-life flag of convenience. Greek owners by far outstripped ship owners of other nationalities by having sold the most end-of-life vessels to dirty and dangerous shipbreaking sites in South Asia, and for the first time in many years, Bangladesh was the world’s number one destination for scrap ships.


DUMPERS 2015 - examples of particularly bad 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 Israel's largest publicly traded company, ISRAEL CORPORATION. Combined, these shipping companies sold the highest number of vessels for substandard breaking operations in 2015: nine in total, with six of them going to Bangladesh, where conditions are known to be worst.


GREEK SHIP OWNERS sold the most ships to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2015, with 87 ships in total. Since the NGO Shipbreaking Platform started to compile data on world-wide ship dismantling practices 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 in South Asia.


Despite being part of several sustainable shipping initiatives and boosting environmentally friendly technologies on-board operational ships, well-known South Korean shipping companies such as HYUNDAI and HANJIN; Taiwanese container giant EVERGREEN; and Japanese companies including MOL, K-LINE and the TOYOTA owned TOYOFUJI sold vessels for breaking in Bangladesh in clear contradiction of their own company values and standards. SOUTH KOREAN SHIP OWNERS sold 27 ships exclusively to South Asia, mostly to Bangladesh. Also JAPANESE SHIP OWNERS sold exclusively to South Asia, many to Bangladesh.


German shipping company NORDDEUTSCHE VERMÖGEN sold three vessels to the beaches of India and Bangladesh – the Northern Glance, the Northern Diversity and the Northern Vitality. The latter had been arrested in the port of Wilhelmshaven in Germany in 2012 to prevent an imminent illegal export to India. Despite awareness of the poor conditions at the South Asian shipbreaking yards NORDDEUTSCHE VERMÖGEN did not care about their vessels hitting the beaches, one of which went to Bangladesh - no lesson learnt. See our latest blog-post on the case here.


Polish government-owned POLSTEAM sold ships to Bangladesh and Pakistan – and refused to take responsibility for their own actions following an alert sent by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. Worse, the Polish government has likewise not acted.


"Despite a lot of international attention on the problems of shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia, the statistics for 2015 show that the vast majority of ship owners have not changed their practice for the better. On the contrary, most have opted for one of the worst shipbreaking destination in the world – Bangladesh, where children are still illegally exploited to break ships manually on tidal mudflats. [1] "
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.


One sign of hope, is a group of leading ship owners that have vowed to take responsibility for clean and safe end-of-life management and demonstrate that alternatives are available. The European Union is also expected to publish a list of approved ship recycling facilities worldwide by the end of 2016. This will satisfy the call from those that demand better practices, including investors such as ABN-Amro and cargo owners such as H&M, Stora Enso and Phillips – none of whom wish to be associated with polluting and harmful end-of-life management of old ships. While, only vessels sailing under an EU flag will be legally obliged to use an EU approved recycling facility, any ship owner can nevertheless opt for an EU approved facility for its non-EU flagged ships on a voluntary basis. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform therefore demands that shipping companies and their investors only allow their vessels to go to yards listed on the EU list. Moreover, governments of the world’s leading maritime nations, such as Greece and Germany, must likewise take steps to ensure national use of the EU list. Introducing a financial incentive based on the polluter pays principle would go a far way in pushing irresponsible ship owners towards sustainable ship recycling. [3]


For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2015, click here.
For background information on global ship dismantling practices, click here.





[1] Last year, in Bangladesh alone, 16 workers lost their lives in explosions, by falling from heights or by being crushed by falling steel plates. At least 22 workers were seriously injured, and some of them are still awaiting proper medical treatment. Many more workers became ill from inhaling asbestos fibres and toxic fumes such as those released when cutting the ships with blow torches. According to the ILO and leading trade unions, shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Pakistani shipbreaking yards in Gadani also lack proper infrastructure and facilities to protect workers or to properly manage the hazardous wastes found on-board ships. Despite reported improvements in four Indian yards that have received a Statement of Compliance with the requirements of the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention from Japanese classification society ClassNK, concerns persist related to the continued operations in unprotected tidal waters; the lack of proper accommodation and medical facilities for workers; and the lack of proper downstream waste management. Six workers died in accidents at shipbreaking yards in India last year, however, the authorities do not disclose the accident record to the public. Yards in other parts of the world, are not necessarily all operating in line with standards that ensure sustainable ship recycling. While many ship recyclers will seek to have their facility listed on the EU list, only those that comply with the requirements and do not use unprotected beaches and coastal areas causing pollution of the marine environment, will be approved.


[2] Cash-buyers, such as GMS and Wirana, are responsible for almost all sales to substandard yards in South Asia. For more on the role of cash-buyers and especially their use of Flags of Convenience at end-of-life, see our report: What a difference a flag makes. Why ship owners’ responsibility to ensure sustainable ship recycling needs to go beyond flag state jurisdiction (2015).


[3] Possibilities for introducing a financial incentive for safe and clean ship recycling is being discussed at the European level. The idea is that all ships entering European waters will need to hold a ‘ship recycling licence’. Money set aside would only be paid back to the last ship owner upon proof that the ship has been recycled in a safe and environmentally friendly way.



Platform News – Dead U.S. Ship on Four-Month Tow Ends on Indian Beach

The HORIZON TRADER, a 42 year-old American built and operated container ship, was beached earlier this month at the notorious shipbreaking site of Alang, India, despite the last ship owner Matson, Inc. having sold it for recycling in the US.


The dead vessel contains hazardous materials, making its final voyage from the U.S. to India illegal waste trafficking under the Basel Convention, which controls the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. The vessel likely contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which also makes the sale an illegal export of PCBs from the US. According to environmental justice group Basel Action Network (BAN), responsibility not only falls on the former U.S. ship owner, but also on the five countries that failed to uphold their obligations to stop the renegade vessel along its four-month journey.


BAN photographed the HORIZON TRADER on 2 September 2015 as a U.S. tug named GAUNTLET (also known as MISS GAUNT) towed it out of the Port of Brownsville, Texas. BAN tracked the vessels along the four-month journey through Trinidad and Tobago, Namibia, and Mauritius before arriving in Indian waters on 30 December 2015.


While BAN notified authorities in each country prior to the vessels' arrival, and called on authorities to uphold their legal obligations under the Basel Convention, each country failed to intervene to halt the illegal transport and prevent it from being run aground in Alang. The HORIZON TRADER arrived in Alang, under the name D.V. ("dead vessel") TRADER and was beached on 8 January 2016.


Some have argued that the Basel Convention does not effectively control the export of hazardous end-of-life ships because it's difficult to determine when a ship actually becomes waste along its journey. However, in this case, the "dead" ship was defined as waste before it departed the U.S. The failing lies not with the law but rather with the countries that ignored their obligations under international law: Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Namibia, and India, all of which are Parties to the Basel Convention.

"We've criticized ship owners for skirting international law time and time again, but governments too are responsible for not fulfilling their clear legal obligations. They've all but endorsed global toxic waste trade."
Colby Self - Green Ship Recycling Director - BAN

The HORIZON TRADER first gained notoriety in September 2015, when All Star Metals, a U.S. ship recycler based in Brownsville, Texas, who was thought to have scrapped the vessel themselves at their ship recycling facility, resold the ship in 2015 for breaking in India without the knowledge or consent of Matson, Inc., the ship's former owner.


Matson sold the vessel to All Star with the expectation that All Star would recycle it at their facility, but BAN's investigation discovered otherwise. Matson has since assured BAN that in the future they would vigilantly uphold a policy of forbidding the export of their old ships to South Asian beaches.

"The TRADER saga brings to light the importance of due diligence by shipping companies that have good intentions, such as Matson. Selling a ship to companies that make clean and safe ship recycling claims is not enough. Ship owners must hold these companies accountable to these claims."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The hazardous waste management costs of the TRADER would have been significant in the U.S., perhaps even higher than the value of scrap metals contained in the vessel, especially with commodity prices so low. Hazardous waste management costs are not an important consideration at the beach breaking facilities in India. Hazardous waste streams, PCBs in particular, aren't treated or disposed of with the necessary care, hence a cost savings at the expense of environmental and human health. Asbestos-containing materials can even be resold for further use.


BAN and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform call on the Government of India to refloat the vessel and repatriate the ship to the U.S. to uphold their obligations under the Basel Convention.


They also call on the United States to disallow export to developing countries without a thorough PCB study conducted by the government at the cost of the exporter.

"We hope a lesson has been learned here and we never see this type of flagrant global dumping again. Companies like Matson must contractually prohibit their recyclers from using the beaches, the United States must change their policy of allowing companies like All Star to police themselves for PCB exports, and countries all over the world must act to uphold the treaties they signed."
Colby Self - Green Ship Recycling Director - BAN

Horizon Trader being towed out of Brownsville, September 2, 2015 to India. Copyright BAN, 2015