Platform News – Worker killed in yard breaking German-owned container ship “Viktoria Wulff”

On 4 December, worker Shah Jahan was killed on the spot at Arefin shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where German container ship “Viktoria Wulff” (IMO 9252101) is currently being dismantled on the beach. The 35-year old man, who was made to work without any safety measures, was struck on the head by a heavy iron piece.


German ship owner Wulff went bankrupt in August and the insolvency administrator is currently selling off the company’s remaining vessels. The “Viktoria Wulff” became the youngest container ship to be sold for demolition at an age of only 10 years without a previous accident.

"The story of the ‘Viktoria Wulff’ is characteristic for the failed business practices of German KG ship owners as well as ship funds. Nearly 600 ships have been sold due to insolvencies and financial problems since 2008, many of which ended up on the South Asian beaches. The bill for the ship owners’ and investors’ greed for profit is paid by workers and the environment in destinations like Bangladesh, where ships end up without any consideration of the human and environmental costs. It is a scandal that German liquidators, who are appointed by the courts, sell end-of-life ships to substandard breaking yards risking peoples’ lives through deals that are in clear breach of international and even domestic Bangladeshi law just to sort out the books for German ship owners."
Patrizia Heidegger- Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

This is not the first case of fatal accidents in the shipbreaking yards of South Asia that the Platform was able to link to bankruptcies of German ship owners. Last year, the Platform, together with broadcaster NDR, revealed the case of the “King Justus” which was sold after the insolvency of König & Cie. A worker was killed breaking the ship on the beaches of Alang, India. At the time, the Environment Minister of North German state Lower Saxony also criticised NordLB, a bank with a major shipping portfolio overseen by the State Government, for its involvement in the financing of the ship.


In Bangladesh, fatal accidents in the shipbreaking industry remain very frequent, a situation that is widely known – but largely ignored – by the shipping industry, insolvency administrators selling off unwanted ships, as well as by the brokers and cash buyers setting up the end-of-life deals. German owners have had at least 32 old ships ramped up on the beaches of Bangladesh this year. With 83 end-of-life vessels sold to beaching yards in South Asia in 2016, German ship owners top the list of global dumpers together with Greek shipping lines. Several end-of-life sales were in direct breach of the European Waste Shipment Regulation that bans the export of hazardous waste to developing countries. The “Viktoria Wulff” was most probably traded through an anonymous cash buyer using the end-of-life flag St Kitts and Nevis before it was beached in Chittagong.

"Only in 2016, at least 19 shipbreaking workers were killed and another 11 severely injured in the Bangladesh yards. The accident rate remains shockingly high and is not coming down, despite the promises of the yard owners and cash buyers. The shipbreaking yards have to be moved away from the muddy beaches to clean and safe ship recycling facilities using quays and docks where cranes can be operated to safely move cut steel sections. Otherwise, the death count of beaching will not come to a halt."
Patrizia Heidegger- Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In an attempt to hide the accident, the yard management kept the body of Shah Jahan inside the premises, but fellow workers and locals rushed to the site and started demonstrating. The body was consequently sent to the morgue of the Chittagong Medical College Hospital. The following day, the worker was quickly buried without a post mortem. Platform member organisations in Bangladesh attended the funeral and now seek to support the victim’s relatives. The family and the yard owners have settled for a one-off payment and a monthly allowance to help them cover their living costs. However, money will not be able to replace Shah Jahan who leaves behind a wife and a young child.


Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #11

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform publishes today the eleventh 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 the catastrophic explosion that occurred in Pakistan in November and other tragic accidents in both the Bangladeshi and Indian ship breaking yards, our follow up of the North Sea Producer case as well as the ongoing investigations on the Pakistani blast. Last but not least, watch the video featuring our South Asian members who were interviewed in June by the European Economic and Social Committee.


Press Release – NGOs denounce dangerous working conditions after major explosion at Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan killing at least 21 workers

A major blast caused by several gas cylinder explosions onboard an oil production and storage tanker, beached at Gadani shipbreaking plot number 56, killed at least 21 workers yesterday. More than 60 workers are reported injured. It is feared that the death toll will increase as many workers are in a critical state suffering from severe burn injuries. More workers are missing and reportedly still remain stuck in the ship. 24 hours after the blast, the fire on the vessel is not put out.

© IndustriALL
"This terrific accident is a painful reminder of the dangerous working conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Gadani. Our thoughts go first and foremost to the victims, to their families and friends."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The floating oil production tanker, ACES (IMO # 8021830), was sold to the Gadani shipbreaker by Jakarta-based PT Sinar Mentari Prima and was used in the Jabung Batanghari terminal owned by the Indonesian government company BPMIGAS and operated by PetroChina. The change of flag and name of the ship happened just weeks before it reached the beach of Gadani, which strongly point towards the use of a cash buyer for the sale of the end-of-life vessel. [1] Cash buyers, such as GMS and Wirana, are middle men that specialise in the selling of ships to the beaching yards in South Asia.


The Pakistan National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) has announced three days mourning and a strike at all yards. Workers participated to a rally in Gadani today, protesting against the deplorable working conditions and lack of government support to enforce safety and occupational health laws. [2] The Platform joins NTUF’s demand that all victims of the oil tanker explosion must receive adequate treatment for their injuries and that they, or their relatives, must receive financial compensation for their losses.

"Health and safety must come first. This terrible blast could have been avoided. There is a clear lack of infrastructure and equipment in Gadani to prevent such a deadly accident. Rescue operations are extremely difficult due to the lack of ambulances and firefighting equipment and because rapid access to the ship and the workers that are still stuck inside is extremely challenging."
Abid Qaiyum Suleri - Executive Director - Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling for the closure of the Gadani beaching yards and for a move of the industry off the beach to areas that are under strict control, using alternative and safer methods in docks or along piers.




[1] The flag was changed from Indonesia to Djibouti and the name from to FEDERAL I to ACES.


[2] Demanding their right to health and safety, NTUF also held a demonstration in Karachi on Sunday 30 October and called upon the federal and Balochistan governments to address the many breaches of international workers’ rights shipbreaking workers in Gadani are facing.



Platform News – Maersk incited business partner to opt for worst breaking practices for 14 ships

A third report by the investigative journalists of Danwatch, “Maersk and the shadowy deals”, reveals that the Danish container ship giant has incentivised the sale of 14 ships to substandard shipbreaking yards on the beaches of Bangladesh and India in 2013/2014. At the same time, Maersk prided itself with a progressive ship recycling policy and its cooperation with state-of-the-art yards in China. The report in Danish was released last week and has created a media uproar in Denmark. The story has been widely featured on TV2, daily newspaper Politiken and other major outlets. It triggered critical reactions from a wide range of stakeholders and forced Maersk to admit that such shady deals should never have been made.


Late in 2013, Maersk sought early termination of a charter party for 14 ships due to the vessels’ poor rentability and the general overcapacity in the container ship market. Maersk had previously been the owner of the vessels before they sold them to a finance construct in Germany, MPC Flottenfonds III, in 2009. Maersk then continued operating them based on a long-term charter. In 2014, the Platform investigated that the 14 vessels operated by Maersk had ended up in some of the worst shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh and India, and contacted Jacob Sterling, then Head of Sustainability at Maersk. He said: “We encourage other ship owners to recycle their ships in a responsible way, including those that we charter ships from.” In an article, Sterling also stated: “NGOs argue that beaching must end now. We agree”.

The Cashel/Nedlloyd Asia beached in Bangladesh - © NGO Shipbreaking Platform 2014

Sterling’s response regarding the chartered ships was a lie: a quick look into Maersk’s addendum to the charter contract is enough to understand that. First, Maersk explicitly asked the German owner through a clause in the contract to ensure the immediate demolition of the vessels in order to get them off the market. Second, Maersk demanded in another clause that the vessels had to be sold for the highest price available on the scrap market – without any consideration of environmental or social standards. With the latter clause, Maersk put pressure on the ship fund to sell the 14 vessels for a minimum price of 447 USD per ton, a price that corresponded at the time to the prices offered in South Asian beaching yards. No facility operating under safe and sound conditions would have been able to pay such a high price. Moreover, the contract between Maersk and MPC states that if MPC were to sell the vessels for a lower price, Maersk would have to pay the difference. And, crucially, if MPC managed to sell for a higher price, it was under an obligation to pay Maersk the difference in profit earned. The MPC case is likely not an isolated one. The Platform found that Maersk had sold another three older ships to Greek owner Danaos and immediately chartered them back on a long-term basis. Also these three vessels ended up in beaching yards.

"In 2014, we believed that Maersk was an industry leader with regards to sustainable ship recycling practices. In Maersk’s CSR reports, we could read about their much publicised cooperation with Chinese ship recycling yards, we were shown futuristic videos on ‘total vessel recycling’ and the Head of Sustainability made strong ‘off the beach’ statements. Getting hold of the charter contract opened our eyes to the reality: Maersk actively incentivised business partners to sell to the highest bidder, inevitably offering the lowest standards. Maersk was fully aware that these ships would be broken in some of the worst yards in Bangladesh and India and even had a direct financial interest in that by earning an extra profit."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

After Maersk’s business tactics were revealed in the Danish press, the shipping line has received strong criticism for its unsustainable shipbreaking practices from Danish Parliamentarians, leading Danish environmental organisations, and its own investors.

"Maersk had no other choice but to apologise publicly for both their shady deals and the illegal export of their floating storage and production tanker, the North Sea Producer, from the UK to Bangladesh. Maersk admitted to the media that they should not have made such deals. However, apologies for the worst practices now seem to be the strategy to make the current breaking practice in Alang, India, look like a good solution."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Danwatch’s investigations at Maersk’s Shree Ram yard in Alang have shown severe shortcomings related to fundamental labour rights, environmental safeguards and basic health and safety standards. Maersk’s support of the beaching yards in Alang stalls any development in India to move ship recycling to modern industrial platforms. Such a transition was already supported by the Government of Gujarat and investors in the 1990s when the Pipavav dry dock was built in order to bring the Indian ship recycling industry to an acceptable level. However, the shipping industry’s profits on the beaches of Alang have consolidated the beaching yards’ monopoly in India, while innovative new businesses from India have been stifled.

"We and other key stakeholders maintain: the future of shipbreaking is not on the beaches of South Asia, but in modern ship recycling facilities. Maersk should lead the way in supporting innovative companies, rather than scotching development in India by supporting a method which is banned in Europe. While India’s space programme is launching satellites for the US and Canada, the shipping industry wants us to believe that Indian companies can dismantle ships only on a beach?"
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform




[1] The Platform has sent a letter to the UK Environment Minister on 25 October.


[2] In addition to the Danwatch report, see also coverage in Danish TV2 and Politiken.


[3] The North Sea Producer was used as an oil and gas floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in the North Sea at the MacCulloch oil field, 250km north-east of Aberdeen, for ConocoPhillips. When the MacCulloch field was closed, the FPSO was brought to Teesport in Middleborough.


[4] Conquistador Shipping Corporation is domiciled at P.O. Box 583, Morton House - Government
Road Charlestown, Nevis. Offshore leaks documentation clearly indicated this is a typical post box company address. See also this link. In order to disguise their involvement in the sale of end-of-life vessels, cash buyers usually use anonymous post box companies, often located in the state whose flag of convenience is used for the last voyage. Similarly, the contracts with the local shipbreaking yard, or papers for the authorities, are signed by local agents so that the name and signature of the cash buyer does not appear on any document.


Platform News – Maersk involved in illegal toxic waste trafficking

Contaminated North Sea oil production and storage tanker ends up on the beach in Bangladesh


The Maersk-owned floating oil production and storage tanker, North Sea Producer, left the UK in May 2016 and was directly towed to Bangladesh, where it arrived on 14 August 2016. Two days later, the North Sea Producer was beached at the Janata Steel shipbreaking yard in Chittagong. The vessel is likely to contain large amounts of highly contaminated residues including NORM (natural occurring radioactive material). It is currently being torn apart on a tidal beach, sadly known for the human rights abuses and environmental pollution caused by substandard shipbreaking. The tanker’s export from the UK for demolition in Bangladesh was illegal under the European Waste Shipment Regulation. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform calls on the UK Government to hold the Maersk-owned North Sea Production Company responsible for illegal trafficking in hazardous waste [1].

© TV2

The case has recently been high up on the agenda of Danish media [2], prompting both policy makers and investors of Maersk, including Nordea, and pension funds PFA and KLP, to react. Whilst Maersk claims that they sold the vessel for further operational use, they have so far been unwilling to reveal which company from the oil and gas sector bought the vessel and claimed to be able to operate it. Taking the current market conditions into account, it was highly unlikely that Maersk was able to find a new owner for the North Sea Producer within the oil and gas sector.


The North Sea Producer was owned and operated by UK-based North Sea Production Company, a joint venture between Danish Maersk and Brazilian oil & gas company Odebrecht, with 50% ownership each. Having operated in the North Sea as an FPSO [3], the vessel is likely to contain large amounts of residues that are contaminated by NORM and sulphur in addition to the various other hazardous materials in its structure and tanks. The Bangladesh shipbreaking yards are not equipped with any infrastructure that could safely remove and dispose of such toxic wastes. The North Sea Producer was allowed into Bangladesh based on a fake certificate stating that the tanker did not contain any hazardous materials. The import of end-of-life ships containing hazardous waste into Bangladesh is banned, but circumvented with such false documents.

"After the recent revelations on Maersk’s shipbreaking practices in India, we also had to learn that Maersk shamefully exposes workers in Bangladesh to enormous risks. If Maersk sells a contaminated old oil tanker to an anonymous post box company in the Caribbean under the pretense of further operation use, this is at best a total failure of due diligence, if not punishable negligence. We expect the UK authorities to hold all involved companies responsible for illegal hazardous waste trafficking."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In late April, local newspapers wrote about the sale of the North Sea Producer. The North Sea Production Company was quoted as still being the owner and soon to strike a deal of which the details were confidential. Later, the newspapers stated to have been informed that the FPSO would be reused at the Tin Can Island Port in Nigeria. However, when the ship left Teesport, UK, on 17 May it sailed straight to Bangladesh, with only a few fuel stops for the tug boat Terasea Hawk on its way. Its first stop was in Namibia – way beyond the stated destination in Nigeria.

"It is highly likely that the North Sea Production Company sold the ship directly to cash buyers GMS (Global Marketing Systems), via an anonymous post box company in St. Kitts and Nevis. GMS is one of the world's largest companies that specialises in selling end-of-life tonnage to the beaching yards in South Asia. While GMS has recently been extremely busy in polishing its image with claims of ‘green ship recycling’, the company’s track record – and obvious continued practice – tells another story. GMS continues to strike deals with some of the worst shipbreaking yards in the world, including those in Bangladesh where hazardous waste management capacity is completely absent, where illegal child labour persists, and where workers are killed or maimed in accidents that could have been avoided."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

A Saint Kitts and Nevis-based postbox company, Conquistador Shipping Corporation, [3] became the new registered owner of the ship during its last voyage. Contracts for the vessel with Janata Steel shipbreaking yard were signed with the help of a Chittagong-based agent. It is likely that GMS is behind Conquistador Shipping Corporation which is used for last voyage ship registration. GMS has been involved in similar cases before, such as in 2012 when they used anonymous post box companies in Panama and the end-of-life flag of Belize to illegally export two French ferries, SeaFrance’s Cézanne and Renoir, from France to India.


In the coming years a high number of vessels, including semi-submersible platforms, used by the oil and gas sector operating in the North Sea will be decommissioned. Some of these structures have already ended up on the South Asian beaches for breaking under conditions that are both dangerous and polluting.

"We are asking governments to effectively prevent any future illegal waste trafficking as we have seen with the case of the North Sea Producer. The large number of vessels and structures used in the North Sea that will need to be decommissioned in the coming years should prompt public strategies for the creation of jobs in the EU that promise the environmentally sound recovery of valuable resources."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform




[1] The Platform has sent a letter to the UK Environment Minister on 25 October.


[2] In addition to the Danwatch report, see also coverage in Danish TV2 and Politiken.


[3] The North Sea Producer was used as an oil and gas floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in the North Sea at the MacCulloch oil field, 250km north-east of Aberdeen, for ConocoPhillips. When the MacCulloch field was closed, the FPSO was brought to Teesport in Middleborough.


[4] Conquistador Shipping Corporation is domiciled at P.O. Box 583, Morton House - Government
Road Charlestown, Nevis. Offshore leaks documentation clearly indicated this is a typical post box company address. See also this link. In order to disguise their involvement in the sale of end-of-life vessels, cash buyers usually use anonymous post box companies, often located in the state whose flag of convenience is used for the last voyage. Similarly, the contracts with the local shipbreaking yard, or papers for the authorities, are signed by local agents so that the name and signature of the cash buyer does not appear on any document.


Platform News – Maersk maintains beaching mantra and chooses to ignore facts revealed by Danwatch

After investigative journalists have revealed the severe short-comings of Maersk’s shipbreaking practices in Alang, India, the shipping giant blatantly disregards the findings. In an official statement, Maersk defends its new practice of breaking ships on Indian beaches with tooth and nail without even mentioning the grave concerns raised by the Danish journalists [1]. Maersk's strategy seems to be to draw a veil of silence on the bad conditions in Alang whilst trying to squirm themselves out of other scandalous revelations. These include the recent illegal export of their heavily contaminated floating oil production and storage tanker “North Sea Producer” from the UK to Bangladesh and the uncovering of Maersk’s secret contracts that incentivised business partners to sell chartered ships for scrap to the worst yards.


After many years of proudly recycling its end-of-life ships in modern ship recycling yards, Maersk now tries to make the world believe that truly sustainable ship recycling off the beach is not affordable. The world’s largest container ship owner comes forward with this misleading statement while its competitor Hapag Lloyd makes it very clear: the German container ship line stays true to its commitment to clean and safe ship recycling off the beach in EU-approved facilities. Also ship owners from other sectors have been doing very well with their uncompromising approach to ship recycling, including Wilhelmsen, Wallenius, Hoegh, Grieg, CSL and Royal Dutch Boskalis.

"Maersk’s cant on their competitiveness is ludicrous: whom do they want to fool when they say that the company would risk its existence if it continued to recycle ships in state-of-the-art facilities? If smaller shipping lines are able to do it, why not the world’s largest ship owner? It is a question of properly accounting for the true costs of recycling throughout the life-cycle of a ship. We expect Maersk to ensure sound financial planning and long-term investments rather than short-term profit maximisation at end-of-life."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Maersk defends its U-turn from state-of-the-art facilities in China towards the beaches in India with the argument that it will assist the Alang yards to improve their standard. As a matter of fact, Maersk has not invested in any infrastructure in the Alang shipbreaking yards - they have even been warned that such investments might be a dead-end and too costly compared to using available docks or slip-ways. When asked, the company is consequently not able to put a number to its investments in Alang. All that Maersk has done is to write up a standard on paper and to employ staff in Alang to supervise its implementation. The Danwatch investigation has shown that Maersk’s yard, Shree Ram, is unable to live up to that standard and that Maersk’s presence at the yard has not helped to rectify the situation.

"Maersk keeps reeling off its narrative that shipbreaking is a significant employer in India. If workers in India are really their main concern, then why has Maersk not fixed the most basic things first: contracts for all workers, decent accommodation for all, adequate personal protective equipment – before putting its ships on the beach? How can they call shipbreaking ‘superior’ in an area that does not even have a hospital to treat severely injured workers? The truth is: it is all about profit over people."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
© S Rahman

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has been calling on Maersk to return to truly sustainable ship recycling and to invest in a model facility off the beach that is able to recycle its estimated 75-100 end-of-life ships under the high standards for environmental protection and occupational health and safety that have been deemed necessary under European law. Only then would Maersk be able to pride itself with supporting decent jobs in the ship recycling sector.

"The answer is not on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The answer lies in innovation and engineering solutions for 21st century ship recycling: India might be ready, the beaches of Alang are not."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform




[1] Four main Maersk claims that Danwatch has proven wrong:

- According to Maersk, its environmental recycling plan foresees that most of the vessel is dismantled without the ship parts being in contact with sand or water. The Platform and other critics have been arguing that the facilities lack large industrial cranes that can be deployed along the side of the ship. Cut sections therefore need to crash down onto the beach and the intertidal zone. During their research at Shree Ram, the journalists found cut sections that had been dropped into the intertidal zone, and were even cut down right on the sand. The claim of ‘no contact between cut parts and sand or water’ remains a myth. Apart from the negative environmental impact of the gravity method, Maersk does not at all address the scraping of toxic paints during the beaching process and the release of heavy metals, such as copper, into the environment.

- Maersk claims that appropriate protective equipment is available and mandatory to use. While the journalists have not checked whether PPEs are available, they have found that adequate protective equipment is simply not used. Workers welding and torch-cutting at Shree Ram were found wearing highly inflammable cotton T-shirt, inadequate or no respiratory protection, no goggles and no hearing protection. The investigations have found that the Maersk supervision on the ground is unable to ensure basic occupational health and safety measures.

- The journalists interviewed ten workers that are employed at Shree Ram. They workers have clearly identified that they work on the demolition of the Maersk Georgia and the Maersk Wyoming. None of them had a contract or any written document concerning their employment relationship. None of the men were aware of their rights. Maersk claims that all Shree Ram workers have contracts and has not been willing to respond to the findings.

- Maersk is aware of the fact that not all of Shree Ram workers are offered decent housing. The shipping giant has accepted this situation when selling the Maersk Wyoming and the Maersk Georgia without demanding basic infrastructure for workers as a precondition for doing business. Similarly, Maersk accepts the lack of a proper hospital at Alang where severe injuries could be treated.



Press Release – European industry, trade unions and NGOs jointly support the EESC’s call for a financial incentive to enhance sustainable ship recycling

Today, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an own initiative opinion that calls on the European Commission to introduce an incentive that will “eliminate the abuses of irresponsible ship dismantling through a system which creates added value in an end-of-life ship”. SEA Europe, IndustriAll Europe and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform join the EESC in supporting an incentive that will make sure ships are recycled in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

"European ship recycling companies are competitive with regards to sustainability and should be encouraged by an enabling public policy that will push ship owners towards the use of these facilities as well as enhance R&D towards more cost effective solutions in Europe."
Christophe Tytgat - Secretary General - SEA Europe

The aim of a financial incentive is to make sure that ship owners use the upcoming EU list of approved ship recycling facilities and do not simply circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation by flagging out to a non-EU ship registry. The EESC opinion supports a financial incentive that recognises the responsibility of the ship owner through the ‘polluter pays principle’ and builds the cost of responsible recycling into ship operating costs.

"The social and environmental impacts of shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia can no longer be viewed as an externality and should be accounted for in shipping companies’ individual accounts. Introducing a financial incentive at the EU level is feasible and in line with established legal principles. It also brings with it the promise of ensuring compliance with environmental and social standards aimed at improving ship recycling conditions globally."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Ensuring sustainable ship recycling fits well with the EU’s aim of achieving a truly circular economy where valuable resources are not only reused, but also recycled in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The EU list of ship recycling facilities will function as an important market differentiator for yards that have already invested in proper occupational health, safety and environmental standards.

"Shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia is considered by the ILO as one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. Incentivising sustainable practices is necessary for the creation of decent jobs in the ship recycling sector."
Luis Colunga - Deputy General Secretary - IndustriALL Europe


SEA Europe, the European Ships and Maritime Equipment Association is the voice of the European maritime technology industry. SEA Europe promotes and supports European business enterprises which are involved in the building, construction, maintenance and repair of all types of ships and other relevant maritime structures, including the complete supply chain of systems, equipment and services.


IndustriAll European Trade Union represents 6.9 million working men and women across supply chains in manufacturing, mining and energy sectors across Europe. IndustriAll Europe aims to protect and advance the rights of these workers.


The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is a global coalition of 19 environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations working to prevent the dangerous pollution and unsafe working conditions caused when end-of-life ships containing toxic materials in their structure are freely traded in the global marketplace.


Platform News – Investigative journalists catch Maersk red-handed in Alang

Conditions at beaching yard strongly criticised


Investigative journalists from Danwatch today release their comprehensive report on the reality inside Shree Ram shipbreaking yard in Alang, India, where the Maersk Georgia and Maersk Wyoming are currently being dismantled. The in-depth investigations reveal breaches of labour rights, workers exposed to grave risks for their health and safety, and severe environmental pollution caused by the breaking of ships in the intertidal zone. The story first came out on Sunday in the Danish newspaper Politiken, and has been covered widely in Danish media. The investigation not only confirms the serious concerns with the beaching method which the NGO Shipbreaking Platform has been voicing all along, but it shows that Maersk’s shipbreaking practices do not even remotely meet the standard the company has set for itself.

"The unacceptable conditions in the beaching facility in Alang which Maersk has been praising for its alleged high standards can no longer be ignored. Journalists have documented workers without contracts and men endangering their health and lives when exposed to toxic fumes and risks of explosions when torch-cutting in only T-shirts. When asked about the environmental impact of their activities in Alang, the world’s leading ship owner does not have an answer. Maersk’s trial and error approach in India is seriously flawed. The conditions under which the Maersk ships are being broken are even worse than what we expected."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The Platform and the Clean Shipping Coalition have strongly criticised Maersk for its U-turn from state-of-the-art ship recycling back to the beaching yards in India [1]. Over many months, the Platform has shared its concerns with the shipping line. The Platform’s detailed critique of the Maersk “Responsible Ship Recycling Standard” highlights why the Standard is far too weak to ensure the health and safety of workers and to provide safeguards against pollution.


Not only have NGOs warned Maersk of the serious risks, the shipping line itself commissioned a report on the pitfalls of breaking ships in the intertidal zone. Danish consultancy Litehauz highlighted severe pollution risks and the lack of solutions on the Alang beaches. The report clearly states that huge investments to build adequate infrastructure would be necessary in Alang, and questions the commercial viability of investing in beaching yards, especially because some of the problems are likely to be impossible to solve in the intertidal zone. Despite the warnings, Maersk chose to ignore the concerns of environmental and human rights experts.

"Maersk expects to make an extra profit of 150 million USD by selling off an estimated 70-100 ships to the beaching yards. While masking their U-turn as a ‘good deed’ for India, Maersk has not invested a single penny in new infrastructure in Alang. Instead of pocketing this huge extra profit, the world’s largest ship owner should just stick to its previous off-the-beach policy. And if Maersk wants to support a real shift in India, why are they not investing this amount in a state-of-the-art facility off the beach?"
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
© S Rahman

Danish experts with whom the journalists have shared their documentation were shocked to see the serious risks for workers’ health and safety as well as the grave environmental impact of Maersk’s practices in Alang. Had this happened in Denmark, the yard would have been closed on the spot, they say. The UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights, Baskut Tuncak, also emphasises that the beaching method by its nature does not allow for environmentally sound practices.


Only last December Shree Ram received a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention from the Japanese classification society ClassNK. Such statements have been used by industry stakeholders to claim vast improvements in Alang and that the beaching method is able to provide acceptable levels of environmental protection. Shree Ram is supposed to be one of the “best” yards in Alang. The Danwatch revelations clearly show the wide discrepancy between the industry’s greenwashed presentation of Alang and the factual conditions in the yards. ClassNK did not want to comment on the breaches found by the journalists, but has earlier stated that their certification of four Alang yards is only based on procedural checks, not performance.


Members of the Danish Parliament, led by Pia Olsen Dyhr, former Minister of Trade and Transport, now request the Environment Minister to respond to whether Maersk has put pressure on the Danish government to promote the Alang beaching yards at the European level. Beaching is banned in Denmark and the rest of the EU. A new Regulation at the EU level asks the European Commission to publish a list of acceptable ship recycling facilities globally. Shree Ram is known to have applied to be on that list, but is not expected to be approved. The findings of the investigations by Danwatch and Politiken render this impossible.

"The findings at Shree Ram show how meaningless statements of compliance with the Hong Kong Convention are, and underlines that the Alang yards come nowhere close to providing the safeguards needed to ensure truly clean and safe ship recycling. The lobbyist of beaching have been cornered with their green-washing. In light of these revelations, their attempts to put pressure on the European Commission to list these beaching yards as acceptable seem even more pitiable."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform




[1] See Platform press release.



Platform News – The new lobbyist of beaching, Maersk, ignores concerns of environmental and human rights experts

When Maersk decided earlier this year to sell two end-of-life ships to beaching yards in Alang, India, a broad coalition of European environmental and human rights NGOs denounced the move [1]. It is expected that Maersk has to scrap at least 20 ships in the near future in addition to the recently announced selling of a large number of supply vessels from its oil and gas subsidiaries.

"Environmental and human rights experts have criticised Maersk for taking this U-turn on its earlier progressive ship recycling policy for the sake of extra profits to be made at the beaching yards. The shipping line is no longer a ‘guiding star’ for the maritime industry as it has now become one of the strongest lobbyists for the low-cost method of beaching."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

While Maersk has invited international and Danish journalists to a tour of the Alang shipbreaking yards this week, environmental and human rights experts deplore the lack of transparency and the unwillingness to share information on the environmental and social impacts of breaking the Wyoming and Georgia at Shree Ram shipbreaking yard in Alang.

"It is particulae are aware of the fact that Maersk is hosting a visit to Alang for selected journalists this week. Whilst we were initially also asked to join, we were suddenly uninvited. Maersk told us the visit was postponed. In reality, Maersk got cold feet and did not want their PR event disturbed by critical voices."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Strange déjà vu? Earlier this year, the Platform was also uninvited by the European Community of Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) when they organised a two-day visit to Alang for selected EU Member State representatives and national ship owners’ associations [2]. Neither NGOs nor trade unions were allowed to join the visit. The Platform strongly criticised ECSA’s report from the visit for turning a blind eye on the problems of beaching [3].


Maersk had promised to carry out supposedly independent research on the social and working conditions in the shipbreaking yards of Alang. However, apart from dismissing the independent researchers it had originally contacted, there is no indication whether this research will now be independent or indeed be carried out at all.


"Maersk continues to ignore the many grave shortcomings of the beaching method, including its inability to ensure containment of pollutants in the intertidal zone and to guarantee the highest level of occupational safety. Maersk has failed to give satisfactory answers to the long list of critical questions we have raised regarding their new ship recycling standard and the way the Wyoming and Georgia are being broken."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The damaging environmental impacts of breaking ships in the intertidal zone of a beach are well known: slag, toxic paint particles and debris including metal scrap and plastics are released into the environment when the ship is torched. Large metal pieces are simply dropped onto the sand or into the sea. Alarming levels of air, water and soil contamination at beaching yards have clearly been documented [4]. Moreover, shipbreaking is a heavy industry with a high risk of accidents. The lack of a proper hospital in Alang has, however, not stopped Maersk from selling their ships to Shree Ram.


For the sake of the extra profits made by selling their ships to yards that have not invested in proper infrastructure, Maersk is now actively promoting the beaching method – a method that is banned in Europe, the US and China. Until recently, Maersk itself loudly denounced the beaching method for its poor standards and lack of innovation, now it threatens to flag out from the Danish registry if the EU does not give in and accept beaching yards, a move that has been strongly criticised by the Clean Shipping Coalition [5].

"We are calling for sustainable ship recycling off the beach and investments in modern ship recycling facilities. Instead of lobbying for the beaching method, the world’s biggest ship owner should align itself with the responsible ship owners that have committed to using facilities that pass the EU test of sustainable practices and should serve as the guiding star of innovation and engineering solutions."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
This is a series on Maersk’s reversal on sustainability and lack of innovation, and the shortcomings of the beaching method.

Platform News – NGO Shipbreaking Platform demands European Ship Recycling Licence

In a position paper published today, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform calls on the European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States to support the introduction of a financial mechanism that will enhance safe and environmentally sound ship recycling in line with the standard set by the European Ship Recycling Regulation. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform asks the EC to develop a legislative proposal in order to implement the polluter pays principle for ship owners with a European Ship Recycling Licence.

"Ship owners are all up in arms against an EU Ship Recycling License. A surprise? No. The shipping industry has been on the go for the last 15 years trying hard to fight off regulation that would really hold them accountable for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking practices. Now it is finally time to act!"
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform therefore calls
- on the European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States to support a legislative proposal that introduces an effective financial incentive in line with the polluter pays principle that supports clean and safe ship recycling;
- upon the EU and Member States to ensure that European shipping companies follow EU environmental law and do not resort to end-of-life practices that would never be allowed in Europe, in particular the dismantling of end-of-life ships in the intertidal zone of a beach;
- on Member States to support the transposition of the efforts made at the European level, that is, a quality standard for ship recycling, the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities and a financial incentive similar to the ship recycling licence, to the international level.