Platform News – No more dead workers!

Published in December 20th, 2016

Platform calls for responsible solution for Berge Stahl, flag ship of the Port of Rotterdam


The Berge Stahl, one of the world’s largest iron ore bulkers, made its last visit at the Port of Rotterdam last week. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform calls on the ship owner, Berge Bulk, and the Dutch authorities to ensure the responsible recycling of the 30 year old vessel. Berge Bulk, founded and lead by James Marshall and headquartered in Singapore, is one of the world’s largest operators of dry bulkers and has recently sold several of its end-of-life ships to substandard shipbreaking yards on the beaches of South Asia. At least two workers were killed and four more injured at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh earlier this year while the bulker company’s Berge Matterhorn was under demolition there. The Berge Stahl has called at Rotterdam’s ore terminal 249 times over the last 25 years. It was for a long time the largest dry bulk vessel in the world and considered to be the Port of Rotterdam’s unofficial ‘flag ship’. The Port of Rotterdam bid farewell to its iconic ship last week.

"Both the Port of Rotterdam and the Dutch authorities must have an interest in the responsible recycling of its ‘flag ship’ that made many in the port proud and regularly attracted fans. We call on Berge Bulk, a company so far known for irresponsible shipbreaking practices with fatal consequences to see this as an opportunity to review its scrapping practices and commit to responsible recycling. For a company that claims that ‘sustainability is at the core of everything we do’ and promises ‘people first’ and ‘clean planet’, ship recycling in a modern facility off the beach is mandatory. Dead workers and a polluted environment in Bangladesh do not go well together with the desired clean image."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Apart from the fatal and severe accidents at the yard that was cutting down the Berge Matterhorn in Bangladesh, the Berge Vik and the Berge Prosperity ended up on the beaches of Gadani, Pakistan, in May last year. The destination has recently been shaken by the worst explosion in the history of the shipbreaking industry that resulted in at least 28 workers dead and more than 50 men severely injured.


Given the age of the vessel and the current low freight rates, experts assume that the Berge Stahl is soon going for demolition. When the vessel arrived in Rotterdam, the Platform alerted the Dutch authorities to ensure that the ship, which becomes hazardous waste under European and international environmental law once there is an intent to sell it for scrap, will not be illegally exported to the infamous shipbreaking beaches of India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. While the authorities have taken the case very seriously, Berge Bulk was able to reassure them that the vessel will continue to be operated and will go for dry docking in China. The Platform is now closely monitoring every move of the ship.

"The vessel’s story is a very good example of why a European Ship Recycling License is necessary to ensure responsible ship recycling in the future. The Berge Stahl has been coming to Rotterdam for 25 years on a very regular basis delivering iron ore for German steel producer Thyssen. If Berge Bulk had set aside funds over 25 years through a mandatory Ship Recycling License, the ship owner would now have a strong incentive to recycle it in an EU-approved facility in order to be able to recover the accumulated moneys – even though the CEO sits in Singapore and could easily circumvent the European Ship Recycling Regulation by swapping the ship’s current flag, Isle of Man, to one outside the EU. We call on European lawmakers to effectively regulate the end-of-life fate of ships that have such close ties to EU trade by supporting financial incentives such as the Ship Recycling License."
Ingvild Jenssen - Policy Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform