Platform News – Platform launches fundraising campaign for afflicted workers

More than 70 percent of end-of-life vessels end up in South Asia, where they are broken down under rudimentary conditions on the beaches of Alang-Sosiya in India, Chattogram in Bangladesh, and Gadani in Pakistan - a practice known as ‘beaching’. The human and environmental impacts of the shipbreaking industry are devastating. The industry is even considered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

 

Shipbreaking workers, often exploited migrants, lose their lives on accidents or suffer severe injuries, such as burns, amputations and serious spinal injuries, due to unsafe working conditions. The shipbreaking workers are also vulnerable to occupational diseases due to the exposure to toxic substances embedded within the ships’ structures, including asbestos, PCBs and heavy metals. Asbestos is one of the most common and most hazardous materials found onboard ships. When extracted, it breaks into fine fibres, which can be suspended in the air for long periods of time. If inhaled, the fibres can lead to fatal diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

 

Since 2009, around 7000 ships were beached in South Asia with a recorded data of 425 deaths and 329 injuries. The figures on accidents are likely to be much higher, and occupational diseases are not even registered in these statistics and are difficult to monitor.

 

We are now calling for your support to help injured workers and asbestos victims in Bangladesh. Check out our fundraising campaign for more information by clicking here or on the image below.

"Your support today can bring a big change in the lives of afflicted shipbreaking workers in Chattogram. It can also contribute to raising awareness about the shameful scrapping practices that constantly cause irreversible human and environmental harm on South Asian shores."
Sara Costa - Project Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

 

 

Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #27

In this quarterly publication, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform informs about the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Providing an overview of accidents that took place on the beaches of South Asia and recent on-the-ground developments, including our activities, 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. 

 

Click here or on the image below to access the full version of our quarterly report. 

Press Release – Record-breaking number of fatalities on the beach of Chattogram

At least seven workers lost their lives while scrapping vessels on the beach of Chattogram in what is the worst quarter in terms of number of accidents in Bangladeshi shipbreaking history. 

 

Few weeks ago, seven separate accidents that killed five workers were reported by the Platform. Since then, two more fatalities occurred. On September 18, Liton Paul, 26 years old, fell from the ORO SINGA (IMO 9171838) during cutting operations at SN Corporation yard. On September 29, a falling iron plate took the life of Taslim, 36 years old, on the MEDAN (IMO 9002207) at a yard owned by Kabir Steel group. 

 

The ORO SINGA was sold by Indonesian company Selebes Sarana for more than $9m in Batam, Indonesia. Before reaching the shores of Sitakunda, the vessel was reflagged to Comoros and renamed SINGAPURA. It was said to have around 400 tonnes of sludge on board that needed to be removed prior recycling. According to shipping databases, the cash buyer involved in the sale was GMS, one of the most well-known dealers of end-of-life ships. GMS, which is behind a significant share of the total tonnage beached in the Indian subcontinent every year, praises itself as a sustainable leader of the sector. Yet, it keeps dealing with the worst shipbreaking destinations on the planet. Twelve accidents, causing nine deaths and twelve injures, have been registered at SN Corporation since 2009. In 2021 alone, two workers died and five suffered severe burns at the yard. GMS has also been linked by media and civil society to several toxic trade scandals, at least three of which are currently being criminally investigated by enforcement authorities in the UK and Iceland. [1]

 

Beached Oro Singa in Chattogram - September 2021 - © NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Platform News – Platform’s member organisation LIFE wins 2021 Right Livelihood Award

We are pleased to announce that our Indian member organisation Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) has been awarded the 2021 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. LIFE was honoured for its innovative legal work empowering communities to protect their resources in the pursuit of environmental democracy in India.

 

Pushed by the lack of judicial access regarding environmental issues in India, Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary founded LIFE in New Delhi back in 2005. The organisation’s mission is to support environmental democracy by focusing on access to information and justice, and by promoting public participation fighting alongside communities and grassroots movements. The organisation has obtained milestone decisions in the Indian Courts with regards to numerous environmental issues. 

 

Inter alia, Ritwick and his team have been fighting against the environmental threat that shipbreaking represents to the coastal environment in the state of Gujarat. LIFE has been legally challenging the beaching method based on Indian environmental law, advocating for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling. Ritwick is a member of the Platform’s Board of Directors.

"The Award will help us increase the impact of our work, empowering more people to protect nature and livelihoods."
Ritwick Dutta - Managing Trustee - LIFE

The Right Livelihood community yearly rewards courageous change-makers by recognizing their efforts in making the world a more peaceful and sustainable place. The 2021 Award was also granted to Marthe Wandou for enhancing the rights of women and girls in Cameroon, to Vladimir Slivyak for connecting and empowering local communities in Russia concerning environmental issues related to fossil-fuel and radioactive waste, and to Freda Huson for her work in defending Indigenous culture and nature in Canada.

 

 

 

Press Release – NGOs denounce death toll of shipbreaking and call for an urgent move of the industry to safe and sustainable platforms

In the last weeks, seven workers tragically died while dismantling vessels in Bangladesh and Turkey. 

 

Five workers were killed and three severely injured in seven separate accidents on the infamous shipbreaking beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh. The fatalities were caused by explosions, falls from height, falling steel plates and exposure to toxic fumes.   

 

On 12 August, an iron piece fell injuring Alim, a cutter man who was dismantling the FSO DARING LIBREVILLE (IMO 9002623) at Mother Steel shipbreaking yard. The vessel was owned by Thai shipping company Nathalin Co Ltd. A month later, on 14 September, an explosion of an oxygen cylinder killed another worker at the same yard onboard the same unit.  

 

On 19 August, Rakib fatally fell from another FSO, the ENERGY STAR (IMO 9118393), owned by Thai shipping company Prima Marine PCL.  

 

On 20 and 21 August, two accidents happened at S.R.S Ship Breakers onboard the ship TABERNACLE PRINCE (IMO 8400579), owned by Sri Lankan company Tokyo Cement Co Lanka. The workers, Dahranjan Tripura and Dhonesshor Tripura, died after having inhaled toxic fumes. Dahranjan died on the spot during an illegal night shift, whilst his relative Dhonesshor died at the hospital a day after the second accident took place.  

 

On 23 August, Roshed and Md. Biplob received severe burn injuries at Arefin Enterprise while cutting a pipe inside the MAX MORON (IMO 9138616), owned by Greek ship owner Tide Line Inc.  

 

On 24 August, Mohammed Ali lost his life while dismantling the Hong Kong-owned vessel HUA JIAN 107 (IMO 8421298).  

 

The terrible sequence of accidents in Chattogram, which increases the yearly death toll dramatically in such a short period of time, not only shows a lack of responsibility by shipping companies as they continue to sell their end-of-life vessels to be broken down under knowingly dangerous conditions, but also a lack of action by the Bangladeshi government to regulate the industry.  

"Bangladeshi authorities need to face their responsibility to protect their citizens’ rights and ensure the effective enforcement of the law. Business profits can no longer be privileged at the expense of human lives. Urgent action has to be taken against the industry at both national and international level to stop the incessant breach of basic human rights and environmental laws on the beach of Chattogram."
Sara Rita da Costa - Project Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In Aliaga, Turkey, last weekend, two workers lost their lives when a rope broke during dismantling operations. Veli Bal died on the spot, İlyas Bıdık died on the way to the hospital due to his injuries. The accident occurred at Metas ship recycling yard where not even two months ago another fatal accident killed two workers, Yılmaz Demir and Oğuz Taşkın. Metas is owned by EU-listed ship recycling yard Ege Çelik, which is located just few meters away.  

"The death of now four workers at Metas ship recycling yard raises serious concerns that vital occupational safety measures have been neglected. The operations at the yard must be stopped immediately to allow for a full investigation and to prevent any further accidents and loss of life."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Ship recycling is a heavy industry that involves the handling of many toxic substances and working at height as well as in confined spaces. To ensure the safety of workers and the protection of the surrounding environment facilities need have adequate infrastructure to allow for safe lifting operations and full containment of pollutants. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling for a move of the industry to dry-dock operations, compliance with occupational health and safety standards as well as established workers’ rights, and accountability for the management of hazardous wastes originating from ships in line with international law. 

Press Release – NGOs urge Greece and Bangladesh to stop illegal beaching of ferry

Yet another passenger ship is heading towards the shipbreaking beaches of South Asia, in clear violation of European rules that are aimed at preventing the trade of toxic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries.

 

The passenger/ro-ro vessel PRINCESS (IMO 7347548) illegally departed from Katakolon, Greece, in July and arrived on 22 August in Chattogram, Bangladesh, where is about to be beached. Despite the fact that competent authorities were alerted that the ship was heading for scrap already in May, the unit was allowed to leave European territorial waters. Before its departure, the new owners changed the flag of the vessel from Cyprus to Togo, and then from Togo to Comoros, in what is a typical preparatory step prior substandard breaking.

 

In addition to the many hazardous materials typically found within the structure of ships and as operational residues, and which characterize end-of-life vessels as toxic waste, the PRINCESS, which was built in 1974, likely contains large amounts of asbestos. The deplorable conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh are well-known and cause each year irreparable damage to workers’ health, local communities and the environment. 

"According to the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, the Basel Convention and equivalent national laws, the export of end-of-life ships laden with asbestos and other toxic materials from Greece to non-OECD countries is banned. We therefore urge Greek authorities to immediately call the vessel back for safe and environmentally sound recycling in line with Greece’s obligations under environmental legislation. "
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Lately, the PRINCESS performed ferry activities between Italy and Greece under the control of Greek company A-Ships Management SA. Its illegal export has also caught the attention of Interpol, which is understood to have issued a formal alert to Bangladesh authorities not to allow the import of the ship. In Chattogram, a legal notice challenging the beaching of the vessel has just been issued by the Platform’s member organisation BELA.

 

It is not the first time this year that the Platform has raised concerns with Greek and other European authorities concerning the toxic trade of passenger ships. In March, three cruises were illegally exported from Europe.

 

Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #26

In this quarterly publication, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform informs about the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Providing an overview of accidents that took place on the beaches of South Asia and recent on-the-ground developments, including our activities, 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. 

 

Click here or on the image below to access the full version of our quarterly report. 

Press Release – Two workers die while scrapping cruise ship in Turkey  

Yet another fatal accident recently took place at the ship recycling yards of Aliağa, Turkey. On 12 July, Yılmaz Demir (55 years old) and Oğuz Taşkın (30 years old) were onboard the cruise ship CARNIVAL INSPIRATION when they were suddenly caught by flames. Yılmaz died on the spot, whilst Oğuz succumbed due to severe burns three days later at the nearby hospital. The exact circumstances of the accident are still unclear, but the fire supposedly broke out in the engine room. An investigation led by local authorities is ongoing and expected to be finalised soon.

 

As reported one year ago, the CARNIVAL INSPIRATION was bought by EU-listed yard Ege Çelik. Due to lack of dismantling capacity, Ege Çelik, with ship owner Carnival Corporation's approval, subsequently moved the cruise to Metas, a ship recycling facility recently acquired by Ege Çelik itself but not yet part of the EU list.

 

The demand for better scrapping practices than those available at the South Asian shipbreaking beaches has led to a sharp increase of larger tonnage reaching Aliağa. There, prices offered to ship owners are higher than what ship recycling facilities located in the EU are able to pay.

"The heaping up of ships in Aliağa must not compromise OHS management. Cruise ships are notoriously complex structures full of compartments and potentially deadly hazards that require a skilled workforce and time to take apart. To reduce the current pressure on Aliağa, the EU needs to boost additional capacity in the EU in line with the European Green Deal. There are many ships to scrap in the coming years and those seeking sustainable solutions need more options. "
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The recent tragedy is another sad reminder of how dangerous ship recycling can be. In the last ten months, the Turkish ship recycling industry has been hit by other serious accidents. Two workers lost their lives at two separate yards that are included in the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities. These recent accidents have prompted increased concerns about the conditions in Aliağa, including the management of hazardous wastes downstream and the lack of transparency on occupational diseases that sicken the workers. Since 1992, the year when a big explosion cost the lives of seven workers at plot 17, local NGOs have reported at least 47 occupational deaths in Aliağa.

"The causes of the accidents have sadly remained the same over the last 30 years. Workers, however, also fall sick and die of occupational diseases many years after being exposed to toxics. Cancer rates in Aliağa are much higher than the Turkish average. Yet,  industry stakeholders continue to claim that there are no occupational diseases at the shipbreaking yards. Workers' health violations and illegal practices with regards to removal and disposal of hazardous materials, such as asbestos, are ignored  [1]. Aliağa is dying , along with its shipbreaking workers, under the very heavy load and pace of full commission books and growing profits for an untransparent sector that is cutting corners on safety and environmental protection. Europe needs to take the lead in demanding higher standards and should no longer assume that conditions are satisfactory just because they are seemingly compliant on paper."
Asli Odman - Academic and Volunteer - Istanbul Health and Safety Labour Watch

 

NOTE

 

[1] When answering a Parliamentary Motion on 20 May 2021, the Turkish Environment Ministry stated that 714 ships have been dismantled in Aliağa in the last five years, resulting in the disposal of 74.325 tons of hazardous waste, including approximately 250 tons of asbestos. The figure for asbestos seems grossly underestimated, taking into account that the yards in Aliağa have dismantled numerous military vessels; oil and gas units; and also older vintage RoRo/passenger ships operating in the Mediterranean, all of which are expected to contain large amounts of asbestos-contaminated materials.

 


CORRECTION

 

An earlier version of this press release was corrected on 28 July to reflect that the accident in 1992 that cost the lives of seven workers occurred at plot 17 owned by Cukurova, and not EGE Çelik. The two companies are not linked.


 

Press Release – Belgian Public Prosecutor appeals acquittal of CMB’s subsidiary Bocimar NV

On 25 June, the Court of Antwerp dismissed the charges pressed against ship owner Bocimar NV for the scrapping of a vessel in a Bangladeshi yard where a shipbreaking worker died.

 

In 2016, Bocimar NV, a subsidiary of Companie Maritime Belge (CMB), sold the Belgian-flagged MINERAL WATER (IMO 9175066) to a scrap-dealer, also known as ‘cash buyer’. Bocimar’s lawyers stated that the company had merely sought the highest price for their end-of-life vessel, which at the time could only be obtained at the infamous beaching yards of Chattogram, Bangladesh. [1] They argued that whilst ignoring the human rights breaches and the environmental damage caused by shipbreaking in Bangladesh for the sake of profit “may not have been sympathetic”, “it was not illegal”. 

 

The European Union (EU) Ship Recycling Regulation which regulates the recycling of EU-flagged vessels was adopted in 2013 but only became applicable in December 2018. It did thus not apply to the 2016 scrap sale of Bocimar’s Belgian-flagged ship. The Prosecutor instead argued that the decision to scrap the ship was taken in Belgium at Bocimar’s Antwerp offices when the vessel was still sailing under the Belgian ship registry, rendering its disposal accountable to the rules of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, which prohibits the export of toxic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries.

 

The principled application of Belgian and EU law was not as such disputed in Court. Neither did Bocimar NV dispute that the MINERAL WATER became waste upon the company’s decision to scrap the ship. The vessel was, however, sailing in Chinese waters when it was sold for scrap, and Bocimar’s lawyers argued that this meant EU waste laws could not be applied as the ship never physically departed as waste from the EU – arguments that the Antwerp Court accepted and which the Prosecutor is now appealing.

"Everything about the vessel points towards Belgium – a Belgian company choses to scrap its Belgian-flagged ship at a place where it is known that shipbreaking destroys workers’ health, local livelihoods and the environment, and is not hold liable? Companies have a duty of care meaning that they are accountable for business decisions that cause harm, even in their supply chain. "
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Bocimar NV, as well as Euronav NV and Exmar NV which are also closely linked to the Belgian shipping family Saverys, continued to sell their scrap ships to the beaching yards even after the outrage of the MINERAL WATER’s scrapping in Bangladesh was revealed in the Standaard [2].

 

CMB NV and companies linked to the Saverys family own and operate a large fleet [3], including at least 19 vessels built before 2006 that are expected to reach the end of their operational life in the coming years. 

"CMB NV and Euronav NV have ambitious plans on getting zero emission vessels powered by zero emission fuels into operation by 2030. This will inevitably lead to the scrapping of older ships not compatible with their ambitious GHG emission reduction targets. If CMB is not compelled to improve its recycling practices out of mere 'sympathy' with exploited workers and the coastal environments in South Asia, they will surely want to consider this if they are intent on obtaining sustainable financing for the greening of their fleet."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Indeed, the recently adopted EU Taxonomy on Sustainable Financing takes a life-cycle approach to shipping. According to the taxonomy, financing aimed at for example climate mitigation must not undermine any of the EU’s other environmental objectives. For shipping companies wanting to secure funding to green their operations it is thus key that they have a policy for using only EU-approved ship recycling facilities at end-of-life.

 

NOTES

 

[1] The sale of the MINERAL WATER saw Bocimar NV earning 5.400.000 USD. Scrap prices obtained in Bangladesh were around 300 USD/LDT in 2016, almost the double of what could be obtained for recycling at yards located in either China or Turkey and that follow higher environmental and OHS standards. Recycling in Ghent, Belgium, where vessels are dismantled alongside and using a slipway as well as industrial heavy lifting cranes would have brought Bocimar NV a profit of approximately 100 USD/LDT.

 

[2] In 2016 Bocimar NV sold two additional ships for scrapping in Bangladesh: BEAR HUNTER (IMO 9292254) at a price of 6.500.000 USD and BULL HUNTER (IMO 9292242) at a price of 6.450.000 USD. Euronav NV sold three Greek flagged vessels to beaching yards: the CAP GEORGES (IMO 9128283) for 10.600.000 USD in 2017 and the CAP JEAN (IMO 9158147) for 10.600.000 USD in 2018, both to Bangladesh, as well as the CAP ROMUALD (IMO 9160229) in 2018 to India for 10.900.000 USD. Exmar NV sold the Belgium flagged COURCHEVILLE (IMO 8804725) to India for an undisclosed price in 2018.

 

[3] CMB NV, including its subsidiaries Bocimar NV and Delphis NV, and other shipping companies closely linked to the Saverys family, including Exmar NV and Euronav NV, own more than 100 vessels - mainly tankers, bulk- and gas carriers.

 

[4] Euronav NV recently announced having raised an 80 million sustainability loan with built in climate related targets. Whilst they primarily own a relatively young fleet, at least 9 vessels are built before 2006. In 2017 and 2018, Euronav NV sold three vessels to beaching yards in South Asia, see note [2] above.

 

Press Release – Sale of asbestos-laden aircraft carrier São Paulo raises concerns

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Basel Action Network (BAN), BAN Asbestos France, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), İstanbul Isig Meclisi and Brazilian ABREA have alerted the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization about the legal, environmental and health risks linked to breaking the aircraft carrier São Paulo (ex Foch). 

 

Already last year, the NGOs called upon both Brazilian and French authorities to ensure the safe and environmentally sound recycling of the Clemenceau’s sister ship, and recommended the use of one of the yards included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities, which is limited to vetted non-beaching operations in OECD countries. After a lengthy and tortuous auction process, the São Paulo was finally sold to Turkish EU-listed yard Sök Denizcilik and Ticaret Limited.

 

Now, the NGOs are calling upon Turkish authorities to ensure a proper characterization of the hazardous wastes on board the São Paulo so that the export and subsequent management of the toxics can be done in an environmentally sound manner. Like its infamous sister ship Clemenceau, whose misguided export to India was recalled to Europe at great expense due to violations of the Basel Convention, the São Paulo contains large amounts of hazardous substances within its structure, and is thus considered a hazardous waste under the Basel Convention. [1]  

 

In view of the particularly large amounts of asbestos and other hazardous materials likely to be embedded within the vessel’s structure, local civil society groups, political leaders, technical experts and union organisers are now stepping out in strong opposition to the import of the vessel to Turkey. They have raised legitimate concerns about the lack of transparency on how asbestos and other wastes are managed [2], and that the price quoted for the purchase of the aircraft carrier is not financially viable if all the proper precautions are to be observed during the recycling of the vessel and the disposal of the hazardous wastes. No Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) was provided during the sale and bidding process for the São Paulo, and it remains uncertain as to whether a proper independent audit or IHM has been performed since.  

 

The NGOs are calling for an independent assessment of whether the plans on how to remove and dispose of the hazardous wastes on board the São Paulo meet the requirements for environmentally sound management and ensure that workers and local communities are not exposed to any risks. Given the very hazardous nature of the military vessel's materials, the shipment from Brazil and subsequent management plans should be fully transparent to any impacted communities and be supported by them.    

 

Click here to access the open letter addressed to the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization.

São Paulo aircraft carrier in Rio de Janeiro, 2019

 

NOTES

 

[1] Based on the audits performed on the Clemenceau, it is estimated that São Paulo contains around 900 tons of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, hundreds of tons of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)-containing materials and large quantities of toxic heavy metals on-board.

 

[2] Answering a Parliamentary Motion on 20 May 2021, the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization stated that 714 ships have been dismantled in Aliağa in the last five years, resulting in the disposal of 74.325 tons of hazardous waste, including approximately 250 tons of asbestos. The figure for asbestos seems grossly underestimated, taking into account that the yards in Aliağa have dismantled numerous military vessels; oil and gas units; and also older vintage RoRo/passenger ships operating in the Mediterranean, all of which are expected to contain large amounts of asbestos-contaminated materials.