Platform News – Platform welcomes new Indonesian partner organisation

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations, welcomes the Nexus Foundation for Environmental, Health, and Development, also known as Nexus3 Foundation, as new partner organisation. 

 

The Nexus3 Foundation (f.k.a. BaliFokus Foundation) is based in Indonesia. The organisation works to safeguard both the public, especially vulnerable populations, and the environment from the negative impacts of global development, promoting a just, toxic-free, and sustainable future. Its goals are i) to support reducing and eliminating the world’s most hazardous chemicals, ii) to halt the spread of toxic metals, iii) to strengthen Indonesian chemical and wastes management policies, and iv) to enhance institutional capacity to enable communities and civil society organisations in Indonesia to promote safer chemicals and waste management. 

"It is good now to be part of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, after having been engaged with some of its members on cross-campaigns for a number of years. We look forward to join forces and shed light on Indonesian dangerous shipbreaking practices and transboundary movements of hazardous waste by ships."
Yuyun Ismawati Drwiega - Senior Advisor and Co-founder - Nexus3 Foundation

Every year, numerous toxic ships and oil and gas wastes are illegally exported from Indonesian ports to the infamous shipbreaking beaches of South Asia. Recently, local activists and international NGOs warned Indonesian authorities about the illegal departure of several mercury-laden tankers, such as the FPSO Yetagun and the FSO J NAT. Oil sludge residues from the processing of crude oil extracted in the East-Asia region commonly contain mercury, which ends up contaminating the offshore units’ structures, tanks and piping. 

 

Exposure to mercury, even at low levels, has been linked to central nervous system damage, kidney and liver impairment, reproductive and development disorders, defects in fetuses and learning deficits. When heated up by simple methods such as sand blasting, water blasting, grinding and gas axing, extremely toxic mercury vapors are released, bypassing most commercial personal protection equipment (PPE). The toxicity of the vessels that are illegally exported from Indonesia is, however, not the only concern. In fact, media investigations also revealed appalling social and environmental conditions at small scrapping yards located in the country.

 

Shipbreaking in Cilincing, Jakarta - © Yudha Baskoro 2018
Shipbreaking in Cilincing, Jakarta - © Yudha Baskoro 2018
"Together with our new partners at the Nexus3 Foundation, we will keep raising awareness on the numerous illegal exports of toxics ships from Indonesia. We will also focus our attention on the appalling labour and environmental conditions at the domestic shipbreaking yards, to make sure the workers and the environment are fully protected."
Nicola Mulinaris - Communication and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – Prosecutor launches investigation after Icelandic journalists shed light on illegal export of toxic ships to India

Cash buyer GMS once again under the spotlight

 

Icelandic program Kveikur released yesterday an investigation on the murky sale of two ships owned by Icelandic company Eimskip. In a documentary broadcasted by radio and television Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), Kveikur uncovers the illegal export of the container ships GODAFOSS and LAXFOSS to the Indian beach of Alang for dirty and dangerous scrapping. The Icelandic authorities have confirmed that the case has been brought to the public prosecutor for further investigation.

 

In an interview with RÚV, and in response to Kveikur’s documentary, Iceland’s Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson said: “First, I am shocked over what I saw. You feel sad and, at the same time, angry that a company in the West would exploit vulnerable people that have no choice but to work under such horrible conditions. Workers are at constant risk of accidents and even losing their life, and environmental issues are given zero attention. The owners of these companies must respond to whether this is, in their view, morally acceptable, and if this is in line with the environmental and social responsibility policy that they set for themselves. That is the question that I, and I believe many others, were left with.”

 

At the end of 2019, Eimskip sold, as part of its fleet renewal, the GODAFOSS and LAXFOSS, while simultaneously agreeing with the buyer to charter the ships back until the company’s new-buildings were delivered. What may have seemed like a sale for further operational use was actually a scrap deal – Eimskip’s counterpart to the sale was none other than GMS, one of the most well-known cash buyers of end-of-life ships. GMS is behind nearly half of the total tonnage that has been beached in the Indian subcontinent so far in 2020. The company has also been linked by media and civil society to several toxic trade scandals, at least two of which are currently being criminally investigated by enforcement authorities in the UK. [1]

 

Eimskip denies any involvement in the decision to sell the ships for recycling and claims having been in the dark about their final destination.

"It is hard to believe Eimskip when they claim that they were unaware of the final destination of the vessels. Companies have a duty of care and responsibility to ensure that their operations follow environmental law, also within their supply-chain. Due diligence when selecting business partners is part and parcel of that responsibility."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The export of the two container vessels to South Asia was in clear breach of European waste laws, which prohibit the trade of hazardous waste, including end-of-life ships, from OECD countries to non-OECD countries. Both the GODAFOSS and LAXFOSS were in European waters when the decision to sell for scrap was taken. Before reaching the Indian beach of Alang, via Suez, they briefly stopped in Rotterdam and Athens respectively. At the time of the export of the ships, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform formally requested Icelandic, Dutch and Greek authorities to hold all the parties involved in the sale accountable for breaching EU waste legislation. 

 

Researchers and journalists that have recently visited the Indian shipbreaking yards, often unannounced and undercover, have documented a reality that starkly contrasts with the industry efforts to greenwash beaching. The BBC exposed the case, which sees again the involvement of cash buyer GMS, of five oil and gas units owned by Diamond Offshore. Two of the units ended up being broken in Alang under dire conditions before the remaining three were arrested in Scotland, as it was suspected that the buyers sought to illegally export them to South Asia. Dutch programme ZEMBLA brought back similar accounts of horrifying practices in Alang, revealing how workers unknowingly were exposed to highly toxic mercury fumes when torching apart an FSO owned by offshore company SBM. In 2019 alone, at least fourteen vessels were sold to beaching yards in breach of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The Icelandic case adds itself to several ongoing criminal investigations.

 

 

NOTE

 

[1] See North Sea Producer case and Diamond Offshore case. 

 

Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #22

There were a total of 98 ships broken in the second quarter of 2020. Of these, 60 ships were sold to the beaches of South Asia, where, despite the majority of yards being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, shipbreaking kept putting workers’ lives at risk. Between April and June, at least 3 workers were severely injured in Bangladesh.

 

 

On April 24, Jalal (35) suffered an accident at Habib Steel shipbreaking yard. He got injured while carrying oxygen bottles from inside the ship.  

 

According to local sources and media, worker Md. Khalil (45) got injured on April 28 at an unauthorised shipbreaking yard recently opened by lawmaker Didarul Alam. Khalil’s leg broke after a hatch cover fell on him while dismantling the vessel Berge Eiger, owned by shipping company Berge Bulk. The worker was transferred to the Dhaka Hospital due to the severity of the injury. 

 

On June 22, an accident took place during an illegal night shift at Jumuna Ship Breakers yard. Abdul Halim (24) was hit by an iron piece in the stomach while cutting the vessel Stellar Knight, owned by South Korean Polaris Shipping. It took a couple of hours for the worker to be transported to the nearest hospital.

 

In the second quarter of 2020, Greek ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, closely followed by Singaporean and South Korean owners. South Korean company Polaris Shipping sold three vessels to Bangladesh for dirty and dangerous breaking. The ship owner hit the headlines in June for the scuttling of the ore carrier STELLAR BANNER off the coast of Brazil.

 

In April, we urged Bangladesh to halt the import of a highly toxic offshore unit that had illegally departed from Indonesia. The Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker J. NAT left Indonesian waters even though local activists warned Indonesian authorities about the toxicity of the vessel. Following our actions and local media reports, the government of Bangladesh directed all departments concerned not to allow the ship to enter Bangladeshi territory. Maritime databases seem to indicate that the vessel reversed course and changed name to RADIANT. However, its current whereabouts are unknown. 

 

Almost one third of the ships sold to South Asia this quarter changed flag to the registries of Comoros, Palau and St. Kitts and Nevis just weeks before hitting the beach. These flags are not typically used during the operational life of ships and offer ‘last voyage registration’ discounts. They are particularly popular with the middlemen that purchase vessels cash from ship owners, and are grey- and black-listed due to their poor implementation of international maritime law. The high number of flag changes at end-of-life seriously compromises the effectiveness of legislation based on flag state jurisdiction only, such as the European Union (EU) Ship Recycling Regulation.

 

How Covid-19 is affecting vulnerable shipbreaking workers

 

The pandemic is still affecting workers globally, including those employed in the shipbreaking sector in South Asia. 

 

Bangladesh

 

According to local sources, all shipbreaking yards resumed their activities on June 1. One third of them never shut down despite the lockdown, exposing the workers to the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it in the vulnerable local communities.

 

Having been deprived of accessing government support, which is offered only to local workers, migrant workers have been unable to return to their home villages due to the absence of public transport services. Forced to continue to pay rent for the unsanitary and improper accommodation near the shipbreaking yards, migrant workers, mainly from the Northwest of Bangladesh, have been left to starve. This unprecedented emergency situation led us to raise financial support to distribute, in partnership with our member organisation OSHE, food and personal protective equipment items to 130 of the most deprived shipbreaking workers’ families in Sitakunda. 

 

India

 

After a month since the start of the national lockdown in India, the government announced the reopening of several industries in Gujarat. At the end of June, around 30% of the workforce was working at the shipbreaking yards in Alang. The fact that around 75% the migrant workers returned to their home villages in Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra has led the yard owners to look at the diamond sector’s unemployed workers from Saurashtra.

 

Platform News – NGO Shipbreaking Platform presents Impact Report 2018/2019

These past two years the Platform has won support for sustainable ship recycling in the financial sector while raising the stakes for ship owners who opt for substandard shipbreaking on South Asian beaches. Effectively exposing the conditions behind the greenwash of the Indian yards, while our member organisations empowered workers in Bangladesh, we were thrilled last year to see new laws enter into force that will deter ship owners from dangerous scrapping in favour of sustainable ship recycling.

 

Thanks to the support of our funders, Board of Directors, Members, Partners and individuals that have backed our work in 2018/2019 and beyond, we have been able to reach some of the important milestones of our campaign!

 

As we move forward, the Platform has an important role to play in promoting solutions that encompass the respect of human rights, corporate responsibility and environmental justice. To ensure that safe and clean ship recycling becomes the norm, and not the exception, the Platform will continue to inform policy makers, financial and corporate leaders, as well as researchers and journalists. Change in shipbreaking will come through leadership, incentives and accountability.

 

We remain optimistic in this challenging time, and, more than ever, we are committed to working with vulnerable workers and communities to reverse the environmental harm and human rights abuses caused by current shipbreaking practices. Will you join us? We need your support to fulfil our mission!

 

Download the Platform’s Impact Report 2018/2019 here or by clicking the image above.

 

Platform News – NGOs distribute emergency food to shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting workers globally, including those employed in the shipbreaking sector. In Bangladesh, authorities have imposed strict lockdowns which have particularly impacted the most vulnerable part of the workforce: the migrant workers. Deprived of accessing the meagre government support which is offered to local workers, and in most cases not having been paid their March salaries, migrant workers have furthermore been unable to return to their home villages as all public transport is closed. Forced to continue to pay rent for the unsanitary and improper accommodation near the shipbreaking yards, the migrant workers, mainly from the Northwest of Bangladesh, have been left to starve.

 

Given this unprecedented emergency situation, we decided to act. Thanks to the financial support received via our call for donations, our local member organisation OSHE Foundation managed to distribute food and personal protective equipment items to 130 of the most deprived shipbreaking workers’ families. Each family, comprising at least four members, received a package containing rice, potatoes, wheat flour, dal (dried, split pulses), cooking oil, salt, sugar, tea, potato, onion, chana dal (chickpeas), moori (puffed rice), one re-usable face mask and hand soap, ensuring subsistence for at least 10 to 15 days.

 

Work has been stopped for many days. We are having a hard time with our families. I can't get any help from anywhere. Such support from OSHE at this time has saved us. We will be able to spend the next days in peace”, said a worker named Quddus.

 

Krishna, a worker who lost his leg due to an accident at the shipbreaking yards, said: “I can't work due to my injury. My wife runs the household by doing some sewing work. It goes without saying that there is no work now because of Corona. I have two children. I already had to borrow some money to support the family. Now, I don't have to worry about food for the next 15 days. This is a happy day for my family”.

 

Shafi, one of the many victims of asbestos exposure, added: “I am suffering from asbestosis. I am the only one earning in the family. I can’ t always work because of my condition. I was feeling helpless in the present situation. This help from OSHE at such a time has saved me and my family”.

 

Whilst most of the shipbreaking yards in Chattogram remain closed, some have re-started cutting operations. According to local trade unions, these yards are not paying properly and the government assistance which local workers have received is negligible compared to the need.

"With the food packages distributed by OSHE, at least the workers are not compelled and exploited to go back to the yards and risk exposure to not only the extremely contagious COVID-19 virus in a society where many are deprived of accessing proper medical care, but also to the many dangers shipbreaking involves."
Sara Rita Da Costa - Project Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform campaigns for safe and clean recycling and believes that ship owners have the responsibility to ensure that neither workers, nor the environment, and the communities that depend upon it, are harmed. The situation at the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh is particularly dire: the many accidents - fatal and serious injuries - are telling of the appalling working conditions. The fact that workers are not paid or provided support during the COVID-19 lockdown is also telling of a completely lacking safety net, both from employers' and government level.

 

Once again, we express our gratitude for the support received via the donations, which made possible the distribution of emergency food assistance to more than  during this unprecedented and challenging period.

 

Press Release – NGOs urge Bangladesh authorities to halt the import of a highly toxic offshore unit that illegally departed from Indonesia

The Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) tanker J. NAT is currently being towed towards the infamous shipbreaking beach of Chattogram. The vessel, formerly known as JESSLYN NATUNA, operated in the Natuna gas field and was owned by Indonesian company Global Niaga Bersama PT. It was recently sold to cash buyer SOMAP International, who re-named it to J. NAT and re-flagged it to Palau. SOMAP is a company specialised in trading end-of-life vessels to the beaching yards.

 

The FSO J. NAT left Indonesian waters on 18 April even though local activists warned Indonesian authorities about the toxicity of the vessel. Official documents indicate that the tanker has more than 1500 tons of hazardous waste from the oil extraction process onboard, including 1000 tons of slop oil, 500 tons of oily water and 60 tons of sludge oil. Lab results on a sludge sample shared with the Platform reveal mercury levels of 395mg/kg. The J. NAT likely also contains high amounts of mercury in its structures, as well as in ballast waters. 

 

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Basel Action Network (BAN), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), IPEN, Nexus3 Foundation and Zero Mercury Working Group have now warned Bangladesh of the breach of international waste laws [1], and urged authorities to halt the import of the contaminated ship. Ignoring illegal acts risks exposing the workers to severe harm and polluting the environment of Bangladesh. 

 

"In addition to the hazardous materials typically found on conventional ships, oil and gas structures, such as the J. NAT, are often contaminated by mercury. Mercury is a naturally occurring element present in virtually all oil and gas fields. Concentrations are especially high in the South American and East Asian regions."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Given the likely high concentrations of mercury in the steel hull of the FSO J. NAT and the blow torch method used to cut vessels, there is a high risk of inhalation of mercury vapour. Mercury is an extremely toxic metal. Exposure to mercury, even at low levels, has been linked to central nervous system damage, kidney and liver impairment, reproductive and developmental disorders, defects in foetuses and learning deficits. 

 

In a recent court judgment on the illegal import of another oil and gas unit – Maersk’s FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER – the Bangladesh Supreme Court denounced the fraudulent documents claiming that the vessel was toxic-free when it in fact was contaminated by radioactive substances. The Court called for full transparency on the hazardous materials onboard end-of-life vessels imported to Bangladesh.

"In light of the recent judgment on the North Sea Producer, there is no scope to give any authorization for import, beaching, and breaking of the J. NAT. It is public knowledge that Bangladesh will not be able to deal with the hazardous waste flow downstream. The vessel will simply flood our shores with toxic substances and expose our workers to deadly risks."
Syeda Rizwana Hasan - Supreme Court lawyer and Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association

The Platform has documented drill ships, floating platforms, jack-up rigs and FPSOs/FSOs scrapped in recent years. Many were beached in South Asia, including units owned by Diamond Offshore, Maersk, Odebrecht, SAIPEM, SBM Offshore and Transocean. The J. NAT case resembles the recent export from Indonesia to the Indian beach of Alang of SBM’s mercury-laden tanker YETAGUN, which was investigated by Dutch media Zembla.  

"With many units to be decommissioned in the next few years, it is high time that the oil and gas industry collectively seeks sustainable solutions for the recycling of its floating units. All actors involved in the oil and gas supply chain, directly or indirectly, have the responsibility to not cause harm to workers and the environment in developing countries."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NOTE

 

[1] Bangladesh and Indonesia are both signatories to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal. Under this Convention, the trade in mercury and several other hazardous wastes that are likely contained within the structure of the FSO J. NAT is strictly controlled. The import of the vessel requires that there is prior informed consent (PIC) between Indonesian and Bangladeshi authorities and that the declarations of hazardous materials left on board must reflect actual conditions. Moreover, the Convention requires that no export be made if there is reason to believe that the recycling or waste management facilities employed for the materials will not constitute environmentally sound management under the Convention. The shipbreaking yards that operate on the tidal beach of Chattogram are well-known for their dangerous and polluting practices. 

 

Indonesia is also a party to the Minamata Convention, while Bangladesh has not ratified the treaty. Although the oil and gas sector is exempted from the international agreement in terms of their emissions management, countries must identify the potential sources of mercury emissions and releases within their own territory. Measures should be taken when high mercury sources have been identified. 

 

 

 

UPDATE: This post was updated on 1 May 2020 to specify the levels of mercury contamination in the sludge of the FSO J. NAT according to lab results shared with the Platform.

 

Platform publishes South Asia Quarterly Update #21

There were a total of 166 ships broken in the first quarter of 2020. Of these, 126 ships were sold to the beaches of South Asia for dirty and dangerous breaking [1]. Between January and March, at least 4 workers have lost their lives and at least 7 were severely injured when breaking ships in Bangladesh. 

 

 

On February 3, Liton Das (27) was hit by a falling iron plate on his right leg at the Bangladeshi M.M. shipbreaking yard. Liton currently lies in his bed at home with an open wound at high risk of infection. 

 

On February 4, cutter man Kiron Tripura (28) died at Ziri Subedar shipbreaking yard. A week later, Md. Mizanur Rahman (22) fell from great height whilst dismantling the vessel Anangel Hali, owned by Greek Angelicoussis Shipping Group, at S.N. Corporation yard. Mizanur died on the spot. He had started to work as a shipbreaker only four days prior his death. 

 

On March 24, two brothers, Sumon Das (45) and Nironjon Das (48), died when breathing atoxic gas, while working in the engine room of the tanker West Energy, owned by South Korean company Sinokor. The vessel was beached at Kabir Steel’s Khawja shipbreaking yard. Sumon and Nironjon leave five children behind. In the same accident, two other workers, Kawser and Habib, were also exposed to the toxic gas and fell sick. The Department of Inspection for Factories Establishments (DIFE) stated to local media that the accident will be investigated.  

 

Accident records in Gadani, Pakistan and Alang, India, are extremely difficult to obtain. A recent BBC Disclosure report reveals how companies involved, as well as Indian local authorities, seek to thwart public scrutiny of the deplorable conditions in Alang. Also other journalists that have visited the Indian shipbreaking yards, often unannounced and undercover, have documented a reality that starkly contrasts with the industry efforts to greenwash the beaching of vessels for breaking. Workers risk their lives due to lack of infrastructure and dangerous conditions. They are furthermore not provided adequate respiratory protective gear and thus exposed to hazardous materials and gases that impair their health, causing cancer and other respiratory diseases. The death toll caused by occupational diseases contracted at the beaching yards is not disclosed in either India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, and is sadly likely to be shockingly high. 

 

In the first quarter of 2020, Saudi Arabian ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, followed by South Korean and Greek owners. Shipping company Berge Bulk sent five vessels to Bangladesh for dirty and dangerous breaking.. These add up to the four ships that the ship owner sold to the same beach last year. Berge Bulk’s scrapping practices should prompt the Lloyd’s List Asia Awards to withdraw the prize for “Excellence in Environmental Management” the company recently received for its commitment to environmental conservation. Indeed, there is nothing laudable about putting workers lives at serious risk and polluting sensitive coastal environments.

 

Almost half of the ships sold to South Asia this quarter changed flag to the registries of Comoros, Gabon, Palau and St. Kitts and Nevis just weeks before hitting the beach. These flags are not typically used during the operational life of ships and offer ‘last voyage registration’ discounts. They are particularly popular with the middlemen that purchase vessels cash from ship owners, and are grey- and black-listed shipping registries due to their poor implementation of international maritime law. 

 

The high number of flag changes at end-of-life seriously compromises the effectiveness of legislation based on flag state jurisdiction only, such as the European Union (EU) Ship Recycling Regulation. The Platform recorded at least six ships that de-registered from an European flag registry prior the last voyage to South Asia in order to circumvent EU legislation. 

 

How Covid-19 pandemic is affecting vulnerable shipbreaking workers

 

The current Covid-19 pandemic is also affecting the South Asian shipbreaking workers. Authorities have halted imports of vessels and imposed strict lockdowns.

 

As reported by the newspaper The Indian Express, migrant workers in Alang, unable to return to their home villages, are facing serious financial difficulties. They are yet to receive their March salaries and have not received any alternative support, such as food, from their employers. Fortunately, media report that the Gujarat government has now stepped in and distributed thousands of ration kits to the migrant workforce stuck in Alang.

 

In Pakistan, more than 400 food bags were handed out to the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan and the Shipbreaking workers Union at Gadani shipbreaking yard.

 

In Bangladesh, according to the Platform’s member organisation YPSA, only local workers are partially receiving food support from the government and from some yard owners. Migrant workers, on the other hand, have not received any public support. YPSA and OSHE, another Platform member organisation active in the Chattogram area, are currently providing assistance to part of the migrant workforce. There is a dire need to secure emergency food assistance, as well as medical check-ups and awareness raising to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

 

PLEASE DONATE TODAY AND HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE

 

DONATE ONLINE or by BANK TRANSFER

 

In the shipbreaking area of Chattogram, Bangladesh, 1070 workers that have lost their income due to the Covid-19 lockdown have received food supplies [2]. However, this is not enough as there are thousands of workers and their families who need support. We are therefore calling for YOUR support NOW to make the delivery of food packages to more workers and their  families possible. In collaboration with our member organisation OSHE, we will mobilise resources during this challenging and difficult time. 

 

Every little bit helps! Your gift will feed not only the workers but their families too!

 

Help Migrant Workers Programme

 

€50
Feeds 1 family – 5 family members – for 2 weeks

 

€100
Feeds 2 families – 10 family members – for 2 weeks

 

€500
Feeds 10 families – 50 family members – for 2 weeks

 

€1,000
Feeds 20 families – 100 family members – for 2 weeks

 

€1,000+
We still need to help thousands of workers who have been affected by this pandemic

 

€ 
Other amount (please specify)

 

Please put reference “FOOD PACKAGES” on your communication when making the donation.  All donation earmarked “FOOD PACKAGES” will go towards the Help Migrant Workers Programme in Bangladesh. Once the donation has been made, we would really appreciate if you could send us an e-mail with your full name and donation amount. If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Thank you for your support!

 

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] During the first quarter of 2020, the following number of vessels were broken in other locations: 26 in Turkey, 6 in China, 5 in Europe and 3 in the rest of the world.

 

[2] YPSA’s Press Release

 

Press Release – BBC exposes dirty and dangerous scrapping of oil and gas units in India

Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS under the spotlight

 

A BBC Disclosure production released this week reveals the harm caused by shipbreaking activities in Alang, India, as well local officials’ and leading oil and gas companies’ efforts to cover up their unlawful practices. The investigation, conducted by journalists Mark Daly and Chris Foote, focuses on the attempt to illegally export a trio of floating rigs full of asbestos and mercury from the Scottish Cromarty Firth.

 

The BBC Disclosure documentary and longread trace five rigs that were sold in 2017 by oil and gas company Diamond Offshore to cash buyer GMS, one of the leading scrap dealers for end-of-life vessels. Two of the units — the Ocean Alliance and the Ocean Baroness — left the Gulf of Mexico and ended up on the shipbreaking beach of Alang, India. The other three — the Ocean Nomad, the Ocean Vanguard and the Ocean Princess — are still detained in Cromarty Firth by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The NGO Shipbreaking Platform alerted SEPA in January 2018, only few days before the rigs were due to be removed from the Cromarty Firth, that the units were likely to end up on a South Asian beach for dirty and dangerous scrapping in breach of European and international environmental law.

"Our preference is that waste stays in Scotland and gets dealt with. If it’s going to move somewhere else, we need to make sure that it’s going to the right place, where it can be handled properly. If someone wants to do the wrong thing, it is our job to stop them."
Terry A’Hearn - Chief Executive - SEPA

Workers’ interviews and undercover footage obtained by BBC at the Indian shipbreaking yard where the Ocean Alliance was taken apart highlight breaches of labor rights, disregard for even the most basic health and safety standards, and extremely polluting practices. 

 

"Companies sell their end-of-life tonnage to the beaching yards as that is where they can make the highest profit. But these are profits made on the back of exploited workers and fragile ecosystems. Alang is furthermore a toxic hotspot, and, without a proper clean-up, the pollution caused by more than three decades of reckless shipbreaking will continue to harm the local environment and the communities that depend upon it for many years to come."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

90% of the world’s end-of-life tonnage is currently scrapped using the low-cost method of beaching. Oil and gas units are of particular concern due to the complexity of the breaking operations and their contamination by highly toxic substances such as mercury and radioactive materials. So far, the only structure which operated in the North Sea and which has been traced to a South Asian beach is the infamous FPSO North Sea Producer. It was owned by a Maersk-Odebrecht joint venture and was also sold to cash buyer GMS before it illegally departed the UK to Chittagong, Bangladesh, after having been deployed at the North Sea McCulloch field.  

 

"Many more offshore assets will need to be scrapped in the coming years. Companies that have owned and operated these units are responsible for ensuring that they are recycled without harming workers and the environment. For any unit having operated in the North Sea, there are more than enough options in Europe."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The BBC Disclosure report reveals how companies involved, as well as Indian local authorities, seek to thwart public scrutiny of the deplorable conditions in Alang. Also other journalists that have visited the Indian shipbreaking yards, often unannounced and undercover, have documented a reality that starkly contrasts with the industry efforts to greenwash beaching. In 2016, DanWatch revealed dire conditions at a yard Maersk and ClassNK had approved as safe and environmentally sound. More recently, French TV and Dutch programme ZEMBLA brought back similar accounts of the shipbreaking activities in Alang. The Dutch journalists revealed how workers unknowingly were exposed to highly toxic mercury fumes when torching apart an FSO owned by offshore company SBM.

 

The Toxic Tide – 2021 Shipbreaking Records

THE TOXIC TIDE

The shipping industry continues to exploit workers and the environment for profit

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 763 ocean-going commercial ships and floating offshore units were sold to the scrap yards in 2021. Of these, 583 of the largest tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships ended up on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to near the totality of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.

 

Last year, at least 14 workers lost their lives when breaking apart vessels on the beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh, and another 34 were severely injured. Local sources also reported two deaths in Alang, India, and two deaths in Gadani, Pakistan. Some of these accidents took place onboard vessels owned by well-known shipping companies, such as Berge Bulk, Nathalin Co, Polaris Shipping and Winson Oil.

 

 

"We have been witnessing this environmental and human rights scandal for too long. All ship owners are aware of the dire situation at the beaching yards and the lack of capacity to safely handle the many toxic materials onboard vessels. Yet, with the help of scrap dealers, the vast majority choose to scrap their end-of-life fleet in South Asia as that is where they can make the highest profits."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

 

Explore our Data Visualisation and read our Press Release.

 

 

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2019

Most shipping companies continue to opt for the highest price at the worst scrapping yards

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 674 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were sold to the scrap yards in 2019. Of these vessels, 469 large tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships were broken down on only three beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to near 90% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.

 

"Bangladesh remains the favoured dumping ground for end-of-life ships laden with toxics. There is wide-spread knowledge of the irreparable damage caused by dirty and dangerous practices on tidal mudflats, yet profit is the only decisive factor for most ship owners when selling their vessels for breaking."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Last year, at least 26 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. The Platform documented accidents that killed 24 workers on the beach of Chattogram (formerly known as Chittagong), making 2019 the worst year for Bangladeshi yards in terms of fatalities since 2010. At least another 34 workers were severely injured. Whilst the total death toll in Indian yards is unknown, local sources and media confirmed at least two deaths at shipbreaking yards that claim to be operating safely, but have failed to be included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities [1].

 


DUMPERS 2019 – Worst practices

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES and GREECE top the list of country dumpers in 2019. UAE owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2019: 45 ships in total. Greek owners closely followed with 40 beached vessels.

 

The ‘worst corporate dumper’ prize goes to the Taiwanese container shipping line Evergreen. In the last years, the company has been under the spotlight for its damaging shipbreaking practices. In January 2018, the Norwegian Central Bank announced its decision to divest from Evergreen due to the ship owner’s repeated sale of vessels for dirty and dangerous breaking on the beach of Chattogram. Since then, the company has clearly not changed its policy. Eleven of Evergreen’s vessels ended up in South Asia in 2019. On 23 July, cutter man Shahidul lost his life while working at Kabir Steel’s Khawja shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh. Shahidul was dismantling Evergreen’s EVER UNION when he fell from a great height. He died on the spot.

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Dry bulk shipping company Berge Bulk is runner-up for worst corporate practice. Four ships owned by the Bermuda-based ship owner ended up in Bangladesh for dirty and dangerous breaking. Berge Bulk’s scrapping practices should prompt the Lloyd’s List Asia Awards to withdraw the prize for “Excellence in Environmental Management” the company recently received for its commitment to environmental conservation. Indeed, there is nothing laudable about putting workers lives at serious risk and polluting sensitive coastal environments.

 

Danish container shipping giant Maersk scrapped four vessels on the Indian beaches last year. The company did not hesitate to leave the Danish shipping registry in order to circumvent the new EU laws requiring the use of EU-approved recycling facilities, and at least two of the ships even left EU waters in breach of an international and European ban on the export of hazardous waste to developing countries. In November, Bangladesh Courts condemned the illegal breaking of Maersk’s FPSO North Sea Producer which had been sold to cash buyer GMS and fraudulently exported from the UK in 2016. Criminal investigations are underway in the UK.

 

Other well-known shipping companies that in 2019 dumped their toxic ships on South Asian beaches include: Costamare, CMA CGM, Diamond Offshore, ENSCO, MOL, MSC, NYK Line, Tidewater and Vale.


In India, many yards now boast having upgraded their beaching facilities to comply with the requirements set by the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention. Recent inspection visits by the European Commission in Alang and media reports, however, flag serious concerns related to pollution of the intertidal area; absence of medical facilities; breaches of labour rights and lack of capacity to safely manage a number of hazardous waste streams, including mercury and radioactive contaminated materials that are typically found on offshore oil & gas units. No facility located in South Asia meets the safety and environmental requirements for EU approval.

 

All ships sold to Chattogram, Alang and Gadani pass via the hands of scrap-dealers, better known as cash buyers. These pay the highest price for end-of-life vessels and are inherently linked to the beaching yards. Cash buyers typically re-name, re-register and re-flag the vessels on their last voyage. Black-listed flags, such as Palau, Comoros and St Kitts & Nevis, were particularly popular in 2019: almost half of the ships sold to South Asia changed flag to one of these registries just weeks before hitting the beach. None were beached under an EU flag, despite many vessels having been sold by a European shipping company.

"Policy makers need to adopt effective measures to divert ships towards the sites that have been approved by the EU. The fact that old ships are registered under flags known for the poor implementation of international maritime law sheds serious doubt over the effectiveness of legislation based on flag state jurisdiction only, including the EU Ship Recycling Regulation."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Today banks, pension funds and other financial institutions are actively taking a closer look at how they might contribute to a shift towards better ship recycling practices off the beach, taking into account social and environmental criteria, not just financial returns, when selecting asset values or clients [2]. Police and environmental authorities are also increasingly monitoring the movements of end-of-life vessels. Following the Seatrade judgement in the Netherlands where, for the first time, a ship owner was held criminally liable for having intended to sell four end-of-life ships to Indian beaching yards, several other cases of illegal traffic are under investigation. [3] Aiding and abiding environmental crime is equally punishable: insurers, brokers and maritime warranty surveyors could therefore also be held liable. By unravelling the murky practices of shipbreaking, these cases highlight the importance of conducting due diligence when choosing business partners.

"Clean and safe solutions are already available. We applaud companies, such as Dutch Van Oord, that have had a responsible ship recycling policy ‘off the beach’ for many years. Whilst other ship owners lament over the lack of capacity to recycle sustainably, only 31 vessels were recorded recycled in EU-approved facilities, which represent a minor fraction of what these yards are able to handle."
Nicola Mulinaris - Communication and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the data visualization of 2019 shipbreaking records, click here. *

For the full Excel dataset of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2019, click here. *

 

* The data gathered by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is sourced from different outlets and stakeholders, and is cross-checked whenever possible. The data upon which this information is based is correct to the best of the Platform’s knowledge, and the Platform takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided. The Platform will correct or complete data if any inaccuracy is signaled. All data which has been provided is publicly available and does not reveal any confidential business information.

 

NOTES

 

[1] The EU Ship Recycling Regulation became applicable on 1 January 2019. According to the Regulation, EU-flagged vessels have to be recycled in one of the currently 41 approved facilities around the world included in the EU list. EU-approved ship recycling facilities must comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The EU list is the first of its kind; is the only list of facilities that have been independently audited; and provides an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling. Any ship owner that wants to opt for safe and clean ship recycling can simply choose one of the 41 facilities that are now included on the List.

 

[2] In early 2018, Scandinavian pension funds KLP and GPFG were the first to divest from four shipping companies, including containership company Evergreen, due to their beaching practices.

 

[3] In Scotland, Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS are still under investigation for having attempted to illegally export three heavily contaminated platforms that had operated in the North Sea and were cold-stacked in Cromarty Firth. The platforms have been detained in Scotland since January 2018.