Press Release – Norwegian ship owner sentenced to prison

Georg Eide convicted for having aided cash buyer in attempt to illegally export toxic ship

 

Last Friday, the Sunnhordland District Court in Norway sentenced ship owner Georg Eide to six months unconditional imprisonment for having assisted scrap dealer Wirana in an attempt to illegally export the TIDE CARRIER (aka EIDE CARRIER and HARRIER) to Pakistan for scrapping. The Court also ordered the confiscation of criminal dividends of NOK 2 million from Eide Marine Eidendom AS.

 

After a decade in lay-up in Norway, the TIDE CARRIER was sold to one of the most well-known cash buyers, Wirana. The intent was to scrap the ship on the beach of Gadani in Pakistan. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, together with its member organisation Bellona, tipped the police about the imminent illegal export in February 2017. The vessel was arrested upon finding onboard a “last voyage for breaking in Pakistan insurance” issued by Skuld Maritime Agency and two certificates issued on the same day by Marine Warranty Surveyor Aqualis Offshore - one for a voyage with the purpose of refurbishment work in Dubai and one for a last voyage to the scrap yards in Pakistan [1].

"Eide has been charged with complicity in violation of international waste law. The judgement acts as a stark warning that dodgy deals with cash buyers aimed at scrapping vessels on South Asian beaches, where there is no capacity and infrastructure to recycle and dispose of hazardous wastes in a safe and environmentally sound manner, are a serious crime. It also cautions that due diligence is a must for not only ship owners, but also insurers and Marine Warranty Surveyors, to avoid any business relationship with companies that have terrible track records."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Waste exports are strictly regulated in Norwegian, European and international law. The purpose is to protect developing countries from the dumping of hazardous wastes and the harm caused to workers, surrounding communities and the environment when toxics are not treated in an environmentally sound manner. Ships contain numerous toxic materials such as asbestos, heavy metals in paints and residue oils. Last year, the Basel Convention Ban Amendment entered into global force, banning the export of hazardous wastes, including end-of-life ships, from OECD to non OECD countries. The EU transposed the Ban Amendment into EU Law in 1997.

 

Waste trafficking linked to shipbreaking is being investigated by enforcement authorities in several EU Member States. It is also being looked at from a transnational point of view via Europol and Interpol. The Norwegian District Court emphasised an increasing need to counter environmental crime. Public Prosecutor Maria Bache Dahl and the judges stressed that there was no doubt that Eide had knowledge that the ship would be scrapped in Asia, and had also provided assistance in preparing for its last voyage [2].

"The scrapping of obsolete ships is a major international environmental problem. As a large maritime nation, it is important that the Norwegian authorities contribute to the fight against this problem. "
Maria Bache Dahl - Public Prosecutor - Økokrim

Eide may appeal the verdict.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] For more details on the case, see “The controversial case of the Harrier”.

 

[2] In 2019, separate action was taken against cash buyer Wirana who was fined NOK 7 million for having falsified papers to deceive Norwegian authorities about the ship's true destination and its seaworthiness to allow the vessel to leave Norway. Earlier this year, the public prosecutors’ office dismissed the charge and withdrew the penalty charge notice issued to MWS Aqualis Offshore AS for undisclosed reasons.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Press Release – Clemenceau’s sister ship heading for the scrapyard

France must act responsibly

 

The French Courts stopped the scrapping of the asbestos-laden aircraft carrier Clemenceau on the beach of Alang, India [1]. Fifteen years later, France is faced with a second toxic headache. The Clemenceau’s sister ship São Paulo (ex Foch) will soon be dismantled and the French government must approve of the dismantling destination.

 

The vessel was sold by the French Navy to Brazil in 2000, where it became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. After countless serviceability issues, which impeded the ship’s operation for more than three months at a time without the need for costly maintenance, it was formally decommissioned; its auctioning began last year in Rio de Janeiro.  So far, both EU-approved ship recycling facilities and yards located on the infamous beach of Alang have submitted documentation to participate in the bidding process.

 

The São Paulo, as the Clemenceau, contains large amounts of hazardous substances within its structure. It is estimated that onboard the vessel there are approximately 900 tons of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, hundreds of tons of PCB-containing materials and large quantities of heavy metals. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, BAN, BAN Asbestos France, IBAS and Brazilian ABREA have already alerted both Brazilian and French authorities about the legal, environmental and health risks linked to breaking toxic ships on the beaches of South Asia.

"The large amounts of asbestos still onboard the São Paulo need to be handled and disposed of without exposing workers and surrounding communities to the risk of cancer. The contractual clause in the sale of the Foch to Brazil gives France the last say in where the aircraft carrier can be dismantled. French authorities must direct the Clemenceau’s sister ship to an EU-approved facility – anything else would be a scandal."
Annie Thebaud-Mony - Professor - Ban Asbestos France
São Paulo aircraft carrier in Rio de Janeiro, 2019

On the ship-breaking beaches of South Asia it is impossible to contain pollutants, including heavy metals and oil residues, as there are no impermeable structures and flooring in the primary cutting zone. The lack of adequate personal protective equipment at the beaching yards, as well as the lack of adequate health facilities, is of grave concern and has been highlighted in recent reports.

 

NGOs call upon Brazilian and French authorities to make sure the São Paulo does not end up on a South Asian beach and is safely recycled in an EU-listed yard or converted to other use.

 

NOTE

 

[1] On 31 December 2005, the Clemenceau left France despite fierce protests about improper disposal and a lack of facilities for the management of toxic waste on the beaches on South Asia. After having been boarded by activists, held by Egyptian authorities, been blocked from entering Indian waters by the Supreme Court of India, the warship was ordered to return to France by French President Jacques Chirac. It ended up been dismantled in a yard near Hartlepool, UK.

 

 

 

Press Release – NGOs win FPSO North Sea Producer case

Bangladesh Court denounces illegalities and lack of transparency in shipbreaking sector

 

On 14 November the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh declared the import, beaching and breaking of the infamous FPSO North Sea Producer illegal. The judgment was issued in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Shipbreaking Platform member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA). The Court further noted with dismay the incessant violations of national and international laws by the shipbreaking industry, and passed several directions upon the government to regulate the sector in line with earlier rulings. 

 

Already in August 2017, the Bangladesh Court had issued an injunction on the ongoing breaking of the North Sea Producer based on the detection of radiation levels higher than permitted. It has now directed national agencies to monitor the breaking of what is left of the FPSO without any involvement of Janata Steel, the yard that had beached the vessel in 2016. The Department of Environment has also been directed to claim compensation from the yard for having violated national environmental rules.    

"The judgment is important in that it has expressly called the import, beaching and breaking permits illegal, and for the first time a breaker has been put off the breaking operation and the government has been given the steering. It is even more important because it has required the government to regulate the dubious roles of the cash buyers and restrict import from grey- and black-listed flag registries. This will surely make it difficult for the unscrupulous players to treat Bangladesh as a dumping ground."
Syeda Rizwana Hasan - Supreme Court lawyer and Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association

Noting the plethora of illegalities and the lack of transparency in the sector, the Court directed authorities to i) subject cash buyers and agents to stricter scrutiny, including a detailed recording of their particulars, and to hold them accountable to the strictest sanctions; ii) regulate the import of vessels registered under “last voyage” grey- or black-listed flags which are particularly popular with cash buyers, including Comoros, Palau and St. Kits and Nevis, and; iii) ensure that no vessel is imported without proper verifiable pre-cleaning certificates and declarations of in-built hazardous wastes, and/or by yards that do not fully comply with the requirements for obtaining an Environmental Clearance.

 

Whilst the recent ruling on the illegal import of the North Sea Producer stresses the systemic illegalities of the entire ship breaking sector, and also highlights the deficiencies of local agencies responsible for the enforcement of environmental and labour laws, the illegal export of the vessel from the UK is still being investigated by UK environmental agency DEFRA. After winning the case on the illegal import and beaching of the North Sea Producer, owned by Danish A.P. Moeller Maersk and Brazilian Odebrecht, NGOs now urge the UK to hold the ship owners and cash buyer GMS accountable for the illegal export of the toxic FPSO. As previously reported, the North Sea Producer was allowed to leave the UK in 2016 based on claims that it would be further operationally used. 

"Providing fraudulent documentation in order to circumvent existing waste export bans is a criminal offence in Europe and internationally. Maersk and Odebrecht were well acquainted with cash buyer GMS’ notorious trafficking of waste ships. They were also well aware of the illegality of selling the vessel for scrapping in South Asia. This is not a case of poor human rights due diligence, but one where companies collude to earn big bucks on the back of people and the environment. We demand that authorities in the UK follow suit and establish the responsibility of all parties involved."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform
The North Sea Producer beached in Chattogram – © NGO Shipbreaking Platform

 

 

Press Release – Documentary reveals SBM’s toxic trade of ships in Alang

Dutch program Zembla recently released their investigation on SBM Offshore’s shipbreaking practices in South Asia. In a documentary shown on Dutch television, and now available on YouTube, Zembla reconstructs the last voyage and scrapping of the mercury-laden tanker YETAGUN, owned by the Dutch oil and gas multinational. 

 

Experts contracted by SBM Offshore warned the company about the high toxicity of the ship and that workers could inhale extremely dangerous mercury fumes during demolition, leading to lasting neurological damage or even death. E-mails and confidential documents obtained by Zembla show that SBM Offshore attempted to conceal the high concentration of mercury in the ship’s steel [1], in order to avoid clean-up costs. The gas tanker was sold for breaking to Hooghly Shipbreakers Ltd, a beaching yard in Alang, India [2].

 

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Zero Mercury Group had warned Indian authorities of the breach of international waste laws, and urged India to halt the import of the contaminated ship. Despite an initial rejection, the permission to import the vessel was eventually given. The circumstances under which the beaching and breaking of the vessel were allowed are still unclear, but documents obtained by the Platform show that the Indian authorities admitted lacking capacity to detect mercury contamination beyond the slops.

 

In their statements to Zembla, SBM Offshore and Hooghly Shipbreakers maintain that the demolition was carried out in a safe way, and hold forth a so-called Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention and inspection report - both issued by Japanese classification society ClassNK - as evidence. However, undercover recordings and discussions with several workers that dismantled the YETAGUN reveal a shocking account of the actual conditions at the beaching yard. Workers are not provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and were completely unaware of the poisonous mercury contamination. Several stated that full safety gear is distributed only when inspections take place. Toxicologists that have reviewed the documents obtained by Zembla say it is impossible that no high levels of mercury were detected during cutting operations, as claimed by ClassNK.

 

It is not the first time that journalists visiting Indian shipbreaking yards unannounced and undercover document 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. Recently, also French TV brought back a similar account of Alang.

 

"We call upon Dutch and Indian authorities to further investigate the offence that has been committed. In the Netherlands, SBM Offshore risks prison sentence and heavy fines for having intentionally and unlawfully exposed workers to extremely toxic substances. In India, authorities cannot remain inactive towards an industry that clearly does not follow national laws on occupational health and safety and environmental protection."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

 

NOTES

 

[1] The YETAGUN operated in a gas field in Myanmar for years. 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 region. Mercury can contaminate the structure of offshore units and ballast waters.

 

[2] Hooghly Shipbreakers shares the same ownership with Priya Blue yard, which has recently been under the spotlight for a fatal accident. According to a local whistle-blower, the cash buyer involved in the sale of the YETAGUN was Best Oasis, a wholly owned subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries. It is not the first time SBM sells its old vessels to yards located on the dirty and dangerous beaches of South Asia. The FPSOs MARLIM SUL and FALCON ended up in Alang in 2017 and 2016 respectively. The STAR OLBA was scrapped in Chattogram, Bangladesh in 2015. 

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2018

Record-breaking 90% of end-of-life tonnage scrapped on South Asian beaches

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 744 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2018. Of these vessels, 518 were broken down on tidal mudflats in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to a record-breaking 90,4% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally. 

"The figures of 2018 are shocking. No ship owner can claim to be unaware of the dire conditions at the beaching yards, still they massively continue to sell their vessels to the worst yards to get the highest price for their ships. The harm caused by beaching is real. Workers risk their lives, suffer from exposure to toxics, and coastal ecosystems are devastated. Ship owners have a responsibility to sell to recycling yards that invest in their workers and environment."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Last year, at least 35 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. The Platform documented at least 14 workers that died in Alang, making 2018 one of one of the worse years for Indian yards in terms of accident records in the last decade. Another 20 workers died and 12 workers were severely injured in the Bangladeshi yards. In Pakistan, local sources confirmed 1 death and 27 injuries. Seven injuries were linked to yet another fire that broke out on-board a beached tanker. 

 


DUMPERS 2018 – Worst practices

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, GREECE and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA top the list of country dumpers in 2018. UAE owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2018: there were 61 ships in total. Greek owners, beached 57 vessels out of a total of 66 sold for demolition. American owners closely followed with 53 end-of-life vessels broken up on South Asian tidal mudflats. 

 

The ‘worst corporate dumper’ prize goes to the South Korean liner Sinokor Merchant Marine. The company, which has been loss-making and is about to merge its container operations with Heung-A, sold 11 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2018: eight vessels ended up in Bangladesh and three in India, where in April, during the demolition of Sinokor’s PLATA GLORY at Leela Ship Recycling Yard [1], a worker died hit by a falling iron plate. 

 

Norwegian Nordic American Tankers (NAT) - incorporated in Bermuda and stock-listed in New York - is runner-up for the ‘worst dumper’ prize. Last year, NAT reported having earned USD 80 million for the sale of eight vessels for breaking. Three were sold to Alang for breaking and five were sold to breakers in Chittagong. According to local sources in Bangladesh, the cutting operations of these ships started without required government authorisations. The sale of two additional vessels to yards in Bangladesh with particularly poor track records and where two workers were killed in 2018, prompted Norwegian pension fund KLP to blacklist the company. 

 

Seven vessels were sold to beaching yards for dirty and dangerous scrapping by German owner Dr Peters GmbH & Co KG. According to local sources, fitter Md Samiul lost his life while scrapping Dr Peters’ DS WARRIOR in December 2018.

 

Other known shipping companies that in 2018 sold their vessels for the highest price to the worst breaking yards include: Chevron, Costamare, H-Line, Louis plc, Seabulk, SOVCOMFLOT, Teekay, Zodiac Group and CMB. Belgian CMB is still under investigation for the export of the MINERAL WATER to Bangladesh in 2016.


With the oil and gas sector seeing a downturn in the last couple of years, the Platform has documented an increase in offshore units that have gone for scrap. Out of the 138 oil and gas units which have been identified as demolished in 2018 alone, 96 ended up on the beaches of South Asia. Figures include 81 small-sized tug/supply ships and 33 semi-submersible platforms. Noble Corp, ENSCO, Tidewater, Diamond Offshore and Petrobras are amongst the biggest offshore players that dump their assets on the South Asian beaches. While most assets were exported from either East Asia or America, Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS are under investigation in Scotland for having attempted to illegally export three platforms that had operated in the North Sea and were cold-stacked in Cromarty Firth. The platforms have been under arrest in Scotland since January 2018.

 

Ship owners are facing increased pressure from investors and credit providers to stop selling their ships to beaching yards. In early 2018, Scandinavian pension funds KLP and GPFG were the first to divest from four shipping companies due to their beaching practices. 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.

 

Losing financing and clients, however, should not be the only concern of ship owners who continue to use dirty and dangerous scrap yards. In 2018, and for the first time ever, a ship owner was held criminally liable for having illegally traded four end-of-life ships to Indian beaching yards. Several other cases of illegal traffic are under investigation. These cases focus not only on the liability of the ship owner, but also on the responsibility of insurers, brokers and maritime warranty surveyors. By unravelling the murky practices of shipbreaking, which involve the use of middle men, or cash buyers, and flags of convenience such as Comoros, Palau and St. Kitts & Nevis, these cases highlight the importance of conducting due diligence when choosing business partners.

"Clean and safe solutions are already available. Responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, recycle their vessels off the beach. The EU maintains a list of clean and safe ship recycling facilities [2]. More ships need to be diverted towards these sites."
Nicola Mulinaris - Communication and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2018, click here. *

For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2018, 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 Plata Glory was beached in December 2017 at Leela Ship Recycling yard. Leela holds a so-called Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention issued by ClassNK and claims to be offering “green recycling”.   

 

[2] The EU has published a list of ship recycling facilities around the world that comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities is the first of its kind and an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling. 

 

Press Release – Another Dutch ship owner faces huge fine for having beached a vessel

Dutch ship owner Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV has been fined 780.000 EUR and paid a settlement of 2.2 million EUR - totaling to a price tag of almost 3 million EUR - for having beached a ship for scrapping in India.

 

In 2013, Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV, a subsidiary of WEC Lines BV, sold the HMS Laurence to a cash buyer, a company specialised in the trade of end-of-life vessels to beaching yards. The vessel ended up in Alang, India, where it was broken under conditions that “cause serious damage to the environment and expose the health of workers and the local population to grave danger”, according to the Dutch Public Prosecutor. Scrapping ships on tidal mudflats is not allowed in Europe, and the export of hazardous materials [1] from the EU to developing countries is prohibited. 

 

Following criminal investigations on the illegal export of the vessel from Italy, the Dutch Public Prosecutor agreed to a settlement of 2.2 million EUR: the amount that Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV had earned by selling the ship to the beaching yard. The Prosecutor stated that it had accepted the settlement as the company has announced that it will take measures to avoid scrapping vessels on beaches in the future. 

"It is very encouraging to see that ship owners are being held accountable for the trafficking of toxic ships – it is also encouraging to see that WEC Lines BV is now committed to the safe and clean recycling of its fleet off the beach. With that they join other responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, that already have sustainable recycling policies in place that clearly rule out beaching."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Already in 2015, the captain of the HMS Laurence was sentenced by the Dutch Maritime Disciplinary Court to a six-month conditional suspension of his master’s navigation license. Beaching the vessel was in breach of the captain’s duty of care to the environment, according to the Disciplinary Court. This first suspension of a European ship master revealed that also the crew can be held liable for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking.

 

In March last year another Dutch shipping company, Seatrade, was convicted for having intended to scrap four vessels in India. Five subsidiaries of the company received fines, as did two of Seatrade’s CEOs, who were also sentenced to professional bans. 

 

The Netherlands is taking a leading position on the cracking down on illegal trafficking of toxic ships. More investigations are also underway in other European countries, such as the Harrier case in Norway and the North Sea Producer case in the UK. Last week, in Bangladesh, a shipbreaker was sentenced to a 280.000 USD fine for having scrapped a vessel on the touristic Parki Sea Beach. The court emphasised that beaching causes irreparable damage to the local ecology.

"Both exporting and importing countries are starting to hold industry stakeholders accountable – it is high time to scrap the beaching method and replace it by proper recycling in facilities that can contain pollutants and ensure safe working conditions. Better methods exist and facilities that operate under higher standards have the capacity to take in more ships. An increased demand for sustainable practices will see more investments in yards that meet the standards of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. "
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

EU-flagged vessels are now exempt from the EU Waste Shipment Regulation that regulates the export of hazardous wastes, as they fall under the scope of the new EU Ship Recycling Regulation [2]. Under the new legal regime, EU-flagged ships must be recycled only in safe and sound facilities included by the EU in the European List of ship recycling facilities. Beaching yards will not be accepted on the EU list as they fall short of the environmental and safety requirements that the Regulation sets. 

 

NOTES

 

[1] The HMS Laurence – as most vessels – contained toxic materials within its structure. 

 

[2] The EU Waste Shipment Regulation continues to cover non-EU flagged vessels.