Main Location: Aliaga
N°. Yards: 22 companies operating a total of 28 plots
N°. Workers: around 1500
Recycling method: landing
Ship recycling in Turkey is carried out in an industrial zone that is state-owned and leased out to private companies. The yards are located in Aliağa, around 50 km north of Izmir on the Aegean coast in an area that hosts a large cluster of heavy industries. The ship recycling zone was first established by a government decree in 1976. Most of the workers originally come from Tokat and Sivas in Eastern Turkey, and have settled in Aliağa.
In 2002, Greenpeace reported poor conditions for workers’ health and the environment in the Turkish shipbreaking yards. The researchers found that no adequate protection was provided for the workers and no proper measures were in place to prevent environmental contamination. As a reaction to the international criticism, the Government of Turkey introduced new procedures for the management of hazardous wastes. In 2009, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform followed up with a new report on downstream waste management. It identified significant progress, though concerns remained related to certain waste streams such as the disposal of heavy metals and PCBs.
Since then, the Turkish ship recyclers and the Government have continued to improve practices in Aliağa, both regarding environmental and social standards, including aligning the legal framework with international environmental conventions. The yards have opened their doors to independent researchers, consultants and experts when accompanied by international stakeholders. Moreover, the cooperation with European governments to dismantle obsolete navy vessels has further helped to improve practices. The more advanced Turkish yards have joined the International Ship Recycler’s Association (ISRA). To date, seven yards in Turkey have been approved and included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities.
Despite these positive developments, NGOs, the ship recycling workforce and local labour rights groups, including Platform's partner Istanbul Health and Safety Labour Watch (IHSLW), still remain concerned about the employment conditions on more general grounds, including the accident rate, the management of hazardous wastes downstream, trade union representation and the lack of transparency on occupational diseases. The last series of accidents in 2021 should serve as a wake-up call for Europe, which 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.
Between the 11st and 22nd of February, 2022 a full stoppage of production, in form of a wildcat strike, took place in Aliağa with the participation of the workers of all the shipyards. The demands formulated during this strike pointed out to significant non-law confirming practices of yard owners, such as improper uses of devices and personal protective equipment, irregularities in legal paid annual leaves and wage payments, and the blacklisting of workers' organisations and social facilities.
The Turkish ship recycling yards apply the so-called landing method. The bow of the vessel is grounded on the shore while the stern is still afloat. The blocks are then lifted by cranes onto a drained and impermeable working area. The yards do not resort to the gravity method, that is, dropping blocks into the water or onto the beach. The negative environmental impact of the landing method is no doubt higher than recycling in a fully contained area. The Platform is of the opinion that the landing method used in Aliağa should be progressively phased out, in favor of the use of fully contained areas for scrapping, since Turkish facilities have scope for improvement.