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. 

 

 

Press Release – Investigations on the Harrier tighten as it reaches Turkey for recycling

Norwegian press DN revealed this summer that Aqualis Offshore and insurance company Skuld Maritime Agency are under investigation for their involvement in the attempt to illegally export the Harrier to Pakistan for scrapping. Aqualis Offshore issued two certificates for the ship – one for a break-up voyage to Pakistan, another for a voyage to Dubai – and it is suspected that the latter was issued to dupe Norwegian authorities in order to circumvent the European waste export ban. Skuld Maritime Agency was involved in issuing the last-voyage insurance for the vessel and is therefore being investigated for having aided the illegal export.

 

The former and current owners of the ship, Georg Eide and cash buyer Wirana, are also targeted in the ongoing investigations, and risk being held criminally liable for their attempt to illegally export the Harrier.

"It is encouraging to see authorities enforce the law on ships destined for recycling. Following also the Seatrade judgement in the Netherlands, the Harrier case is yet another warning to ship owners that selling a vessel for the highest price to a cash buyer is dirty business."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Another owner, Herbjorn Hansson of Nordic American Tankers, is under the spotlight in Norway for having sold eight vessels for beaching. Reactions to these revelations have been strong with the Norwegian Oil Pension Fund as well as the banks DNB and Nordea condemning beaching as a method for breaking ships.

 

The Norwegian Environment Agency urges ship owners to use facilities that have been approved by the EU for the recycling of their vessels, regardless of the flag of their ship. Its director, Ellen Hambro, states that it is unacceptable to endanger workers’ health and pollute the environment in developing countries for the sake of higher profits.

"We support the statements made by the Norwegian authorities and call also upon other stakeholders in shipping, such as insurers and financers, to play their part in putting an end to the dirty and dangerous practice of beaching. Safer and cleaner alternatives exist and ship owners must be pushed towards using these facilities."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Yesterday the Harrier arrived in Aliaga, Turkey, where it will be recycled in line with the European waste laws. Waste Management company Norsk Gjennvinning will be supervising the process.

 

 

Press Release – Seatrade convicted for trafficking toxic ships

Today, the Rotterdam District Court sentenced, on the basis of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, shipping company Seatrade for the illegal export of vessels sent for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia. The Seatrade company has been heavily fined, and two of its executives have also been banned from exercising the profession as director, commissioner, advisor or employee of a shipping company for one year.

 

For the first time, a European shipping company has been held criminally liable for having sold vessels for scrap to substandard shipbreaking yards in India and Bangladesh, where, as widely acknowledged and according to the Prosecutor, “current ship dismantling methods endanger the lives and health of workers and pollute the environment”. The Prosecutor’s request that the Seatrade executives face prison was only waived in light of this being the first time such criminal charges had been pressed.

 

This groundbreaking judgement sets a European-wide precedent for holding ship owners accountable for knowingly selling vessels, via shady cash-buyers, for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximize profits.

"We strongly welcome the judgement of the Rotterdam Court. The ruling sends a clear-cut message that dirty and dangerous scrapping will no longer be tolerated."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – NGOs respond to legal threats by shipbreaking industry and withdraw from industry conference

On Monday, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, an international coalition of labour, human rights and environmental organisations, withdrew their participation from the TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum that starts today in Hamburg. This is in response to a letter from cash buyer GMS threatening to sue unless the Platform removes all mention of GMS from their website. The Platform has frequently exposed the cash buyer for enabling the dirtiest and most underhanded practices in the shipbreaking industry [1]. Tradewinds refused to replace GMS company staff as chair in the sessions in which the Platform was to participate as experts, despite being noted that it is a conflict of interest and inappropriate to allow discussions to be moderated by a person representing a company that is threatening to legally attack a session invitee.

 

No company would accept to participate in a debate moderated by someone threatening to sue them”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “We regret not being able to present our views at TradeWinds where we would have especially provided our support to the many financers, investors and authorities that are now engaging to set a standard for the industry and who are demanding to move the industry off the beach”, she adds.

 

In reaction to the attempt by GMS to silence critical civil society voices that reveal the company’s unethical, dangerous and environmentally disastrous business practices, the Platform’s legal counsel in Belgium and in the US has further responded in a letter that neither an apology nor retractions will be forthcoming.

 

We have no intention to remove truthful information from our website and will not apologise for reporting on the business of trafficking ships for dirty and dangerous breaking. It is our organisation’s mission to provide authorities, journalists, and industry stakeholders with information on the deplorable realities of current shipbreaking practices which encourage the circumvention of existing labour and environmental protection laws“, says Ingvild Jenssen.

 

The harassment by GMS comes in addition to the earlier threat to sue the Platform made by PHP, a Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard and a supporting sponsor of this year’s TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum.

 

NOTE

 

[1] Dubai-based GMS has been involved in several cases of illegal hazardous waste exports that are being/have been investigated by authorities and the police in several countries. For instance:
- GMS was revealed to be the cash-buyer for the illegal export of the North Sea Producer from the UK to Bangladesh: https://old.danwatch.dk/en/undersogelse/maersk-og-det-farlige-affald-i-bangladesh
- Three drill rigs stacked in Scotland were stopped from leaving after their destination was suspected to be to a beaching yard in South Asia. GMS has been confirmed as the buyer of the rigs: https://www.energyvoice.com/opinion/162853/opinion-scrap-shady-underbelly-offshore-industry/?utm_source=twitter
- Last year, a worker in Bangladesh claimed compensation for injuries incurred while breaking a ship owned by Zodiac Maritime. GMS was revealed to be the cash buyer behind the sale to the shipbreaking yard: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/dec/02/chittagong-shipbreaking-yards-legal-fight
- In 2009 the company was fined $518,500 dollars by the US EPA for illegally exporting a PCB laden passenger liner to South Asia: http://www.marinelog.com/DOCS/NEWSMMIX/2009jan00311.html

 

 

Maersk’s toxic trade: the North Sea Producer case

Maersk's toxic trade: the North Sea Producer case

In August 2016 the FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER was beached in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The ship was allowed to leave the UK based on false claims that it would be further operationally used in the Tin Can port in Nigeria. In both the UK and Bangladesh, the Platform is fronting the battle to hold the owners, and cash buyer GMS, accountable for the illegal export of the FPSO.

 

The North Sea Producer (ex Dagmar Maersk) was deployed in the McCulloch field in the North Sea, transporting and extracting oil from the UK continental shelf for 17 years. It was owned by the North Sea Production Company, a single-ship joint venture between Danish A.P. Moeller Maersk and Brazilian Odebrecht. Once the field closed, the NORTH SEA PRODUCER was laid up in Teesport, UK, for a year while the owners were looking for buyers. For scrapping purposes the ship was only allowed to be sold to a facility within the OECD as any export of hazardous waste outside the OECD is in breach of EU law. 

 

Maersk and Odebrecht chose to sell the ship to the largest vessels’ scrap dealer, cash buyer GMS, through a St. Kitts and Nevis post box company called Conquistador Shipping Corporation. They then provided the UK authorities with a false contract stating that the NORTH SEA PRODUCER had found a new owner who would operate the ship in Nigeria.

 

Despite the vessel being under the radar of local communities in Teesside and was well-known in the shipping industry for needing to be scrapped, the UK authorities relied on the false contract to allow the FPSO to leave on tug. But the NORTH SEA PRODUCER never ended up in Nigeria. Instead it was towed directly all the way from the UK, around the African continent, to Bangladesh. The Platform was quick to alert both the UK and Bangladesh governments of the illegal export. It was only once the FPSO had left the UK – and after the case was strongly criticised in Danish and international press – that Maersk was “very, very sorry” that Conquistador Shipping Corporation had beached the NORTH SEA PRODUCER in Chittagong. According to Maersk, the new owners took this decision independently – and Maersk had been tricked. In their Sustainability Report 2016, Maersk also stated that they had cut all commercial ties with the buyer of the NORTH SEA PRODUCER: an obviously meaningless statement if that implies cutting ties with Conquistador Shipping Corporation, a single-ship post box company. Only when caught red-handed did Maersk admit that they knew all along the buyers were GMS, the largest waste traffickers in end-of-life ships. Maersk and Odebrecht knew the vessel would be scrapped - they also knew GMS would bring it to South Asia for dirty and dangerous scrapping in breach of EU waste laws.

 

Once the ship arrived at the Janata Steel shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, and upon alerts issued by local NGOs, the Bangladesh Attorney General of the Department of Environment set up a special committee to determine the presence of contaminated residues and to investigate the ship’s illegal import due to the lack of necessary clearances and false claims that it was hazardous-free. Having operated in the North Sea, the vessel’s pipelines likely contain residues contaminated by radioactive materials and sulphur. Other toxics, such as asbestos and heavy metals, are contained within the structure and paints of the ship. 

 

Upon a request from the Platform’s member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), the report on the ship’s condition was released: it’s conclusion was that radioactive residues were found upon inspection and that further surveys needed to be carried out on the whole ship. BELA subsequently succeeded in getting an injunction on the breaking of the NORTH SEA PRODUCER. 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 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. 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.

 

In the UK, the Platform demanded the Secretary of State for Environment to investigate the illegal export from Teesside. UK authorities have been looking into the case since then to establish the responsibility of all parties involved. Providing fraudulent documentation in order to circumvent existing waste export bans is a criminal offence, in Europe and internationally via the Basel Convention. In parallel Danish parliamentarians have requested that the Environment Minister to also take action to hold Maersk accountable.

 

Maersk and Odebrecht were well acquainted with the 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.

 

 

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2017

European ship owners top the list of global dumpers: the EU must do more to reverse this scandal

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 835 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2017. 543 were broken down – by hand – on the tidal beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan: amounting to 80,3% of all tonnage dismantled globally.

"The figures of 2017 are a sad testimony of the shipping industry’s unwillingness to act responsibly. The reality is that yards with infrastructure fit for the heavy and hazardous industry that ship recycling is, and that can ensure safe working conditions and containment of pollutants, are not being used by ship owners. It is particularly shameful that so many European shipping companies scrap their vessels on beaches. Their obvious lack of interest to ensure that shipbreaking workers around the world enjoy best available technologies, and that the environment is equally protected everywhere, clearly calls for additional pressure from authorities, shipping clients and financers."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The negative consequences of shipbreaking are real and felt by many. On the one hand, workers – often exploited migrants and some of them children – lose their life, suffer from injuries caused by fires, falling steel plates and the general unsafe working conditions, as well as from occupational diseases due to exposure to toxic fumes and materials. On the other hand, coastal ecosystems, and the local communities depending on them, are devastated by toxic spills and various pollutants leaking into the environment as a result of breaking vessels on beaches.

 

Despite the terrible accident that shook the international shipbreaking community in 2016, no lesson has been learned in Pakistan. In 2017, at least 10 workers lost their lives at the shipbreaking yards on the beach of Gadani. The Platform documented 15 deaths in the Bangladeshi yards last year, where also at least another 22 workers were seriously injured. Whilst international and local NGOs were repeatedly denied access to the Indian shipbreaking yards, the Platform was informed of at least eight fatal accidents in Alang in 2017.

 


DUMPERS 2017 - Worst practices

 

As in 2016, GERMANY and GREECE top the list of country dumpers in 2017. German owners, including banks and ship funds, beached 50 vessels out of a total of 53 sold for demolition. Greek owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2017: 51 ships in total. Since the Platform’s first compilation of data in 2009, Greek shipping companies have unceasingly topped the list of owners that opt for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking.

 

Despite increased pressure for safe and clean ship recycling from Norwegian investors and authorities, in 2017, the number of Norwegian-owned ships scrapped on the beach was on the rise: 16 ended up in Alang, Gadani and Chittagong. The attempted illegal export of the TIDE CARRIER to Pakistan was stopped by Norwegian authorities following an alert by the Platform.

 

In light of increased pressure from Scandinavian banks and investors, including Norwegian pension funds KLP and NBIM, and ongoing criminal investigations against the owners of TIDE CARRIER, Norwegian ship owners will have to ask themselves whether dirty profits are worth the reputational and financial risk that using beaching facilities now entails. Also, Danish container-giant Maersk will have an increasingly hard time justifying its U-turn back to the beach in Alang, as the yards there will not make it on the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities [1]”, comments Ingvild Jenssen.

 

The worst corporate dumper prize goes to Continental Investment Holdings (CIH), the Singapore-headquartered shipowning arm of Myanmar shipowner Captain U Ko Ko Htoo and parent company of Continental Shipping Line. The company, which is currently changing the composition of its fleet, sold 9 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2017. Four vessels ended up in Bangladesh, where in late December, during the demolition of CIH’s TAUNG GYI STAR, a worker died hit by a falling iron plate.

 

Ranked at second place, the container shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) sold 7 vessels to Indian breakers. In the last nine years, MSC has profited from the sale of more than seventy ships for dirty and dangerous scrapping in Alang.

 

The Japanese owner Mitsui OSK Lines and the UK-based Zodiac Group follow closely with respectively 6 and 5 ships sold to South Asian yards. Zodiac received the worst dumper award in 2016 and sold 4 vessels to the yards in Chittagong despite being under scrutiny after a Bangladeshi worker sought compensation from the company for injuries incurred when breaking the EURUS LONDON.

 

Other known companies that in 2017 opted for substandard yards, rather than recycling their ships in a safe and clean manner, include: Hanjin Shipping, Hansa Mare Reederei, Peter Dohle Schiffahrts, Rickmers Reederei, Hansa Treuhand, Berge Bulk, Costamare, Quantum Pacific Group and Teekay. Teekay had promised to never sell to beaching yards again after a worker died breaking the ASPIRE in 2014 in Chittagong. That Berge Bulk was under the spotlight in December 2016, when it was feared that the Berge Stahl would end up on a beach, did not prevent the company from selling another 5 ships for dirty and dangerous breaking in 2017.


 

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 91 units which have been identified as demolished in the last three years combined, 41 of them ended up on the beaches of South Asia after being towed for thousands of kilometers across the globe. Three floating platforms cold-stacked in Scotland that were sold by Diamond Offshore for scrap in 2017, allegedly to cash buyer GMS, were stopped from leaving following an alert by the Platform on their highly likely illegal export. “Fixed platforms cannot easily escape decommissioning rules, whereas we have seen that nearly half of all floating units slip under the radar and end up on beaches – this double standard has to stop”, states Francesca Carlsson, Corporate Liaison and Policy Officer of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

 

All vessels sold to the beaching yards pass through the hands of scrap dealers known as cash buyers. In this way, ship owners attempt to shield themselves from responsibility, and are paid upfront the highest market price in cash for their end-of-life vessels by the dealers. To reduce costs and to exploit the loopholes in international legislation, cash buyers will change a vessel’s flag to one of the typical last-voyage flags of convenience, such as Comoros, Palau and St Kitts and Nevis. Cash buyers will also register the vessel under a new name and a new post box company, rendering it very difficult for authorities to trace and hold cash buyers and ship owners accountable for illicit business practices.

"Ship-owning companies that stand by their corporate social responsibility directly sign contracts with ship recycling facilities they have inspected and found adequate. Choosing to sell a ship to a facility which is on the EU list of approved yards is the easiest way for a ship owner to be assured that there has been a quality check. Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for ship owners to simply blame the cash buyer: investors and authorities are expecting ship owners to control the choice of the recycling yard, and expect that choice to be a yard that does not endanger workers and the environment [2]."
Francesca Carlsson - Corporate Liaison and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2017, click here.*/**
For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2017, 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.

 

**[UPDATE 22 February 2018 - Norwegian Tschudi Shipping Company AS informed us that two ships the company owned, the Hurricane I and the Hurricane II, had been sold to a buyer for continued operation in August 2016, one year before they ended up on South Asian beaches. Indeed, the buyer was the Indian registered company Hermes Maritime Services Pvt Ltd, which in 2017 purchased and sold several ships for breaking. Further research revealed that Hermes Maritime Services Pvt Ltd also buys tugboats near the end of their operational lives and manages these to tow vessels to the beaching yards, as was the case for the Hurricane vessels. The Platform has therefore updated the data and changed the ownership of these two vessels to the Indian-based Hermes Maritime Services Pvt]
[UPDATE 23 February 2018 - Italian K-Ships Srl informed us that one ship the company managed, the F1, had been sold to a buyer for continued operation in November 2013, four years before it ended up on a South Asian beach. The documentation provided by K-Ships shows that the Italian company is not linked to the end-of-life sale of the F1. The Platform has therefore rectified the data concerning the beneficial ownership of the vessel]

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] In 2018, the EU will publish a list of ship recycling facilities around the world that comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The list will be the first of its kind and an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling.

 

[2] The many scandals involving European shipping companies are also a driver behind the strong interest that various financial institutions have started to show in ship recycling: to ensure responsible business practices, some are now setting criteria for shipping companies they finance, while looking at the EU Ship Recycling Regulation for guidance.

 

Press Release – Dutch prosecutors press criminal charges against Seatrade

Managers risk prison sentences and hefty fines for the illegal sale of end-of-life ships

 


CORRECTION

 

Brussels, 15 February 2018 – Following discussions with the Dutch Public Prosecutor, cash buyer GMS was not confirmed to be the end-buyer of the Seatrade’s vessels. Evidence provided to the Court showed that GMS had made an offer for at least one of the ships, which supports the Prosecutor’s case on Seatrade’s intent to dispose of the vessel(s).


 

For the first time in Europe, Public Prosecutors are bringing criminal charges against a ship owner – Seatrade – for having sold vessels to scrap yards in countries “where current ship dismantling methods endanger the lives and health of workers and pollute the environment”. The case is being heard in a Rotterdam Court this week, and the Dutch Public Prosecutor calls for a hefty fine (2.55 mill EUR) and confiscation of the profits Seatrade made on the illegal sale of four ships, as well as a six month prison sentence for three of Seatrade’s top executives. Seatrade is based in Groningen, the Netherlands, and is the largest reefer operator in the world.

 

In 2013, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform had revealed Seatrade’s sale of the SPRING BEAR and SPRING BOB to respectively Indian and Bangladeshi breakers. The heavy charges pressed by the Dutch Prosecutor additionally involve the scrapping of the SPRING PANDA and SPRING DELI in Turkey, and are based on international laws governing the export of hazardous waste and the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The Regulation prohibits EU Member States from exporting hazardous waste [1] to countries outside the OECD, as well as requiring a prior informed consent for such exports. All four vessels departed on their last voyage to the breaking yards from the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg in the spring of 2012.

 

[The Prosecutor presented evidence that Seatrade was planning on selling the ships via a cash-buyer in order to maximize financial gain. In e-mail exchanges between Seatrade and Baltic Union Shipbrokers, cash buyer GMS offered the highest price for special parts of at least one of the vessels. The end-sale was not to GMS, but another undisclosed cash buyer.] According to the Prosecutor, Seatrade opted for using a cash buyer, rather than recycling the ships in a safe and clean manner, for purely financial reasons. [Cash buyers, such as GMS, are] infamous scrap-dealers specialized in bringing ships to the beaches of South Asia, where the price of end-of-life vessels is higher due to the exploitation of migrant laborers and to weak, or no, enforcement of safety and environmental standards. According to the Prosecutor, that Seatrade knowingly sold the vessels for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximize profits further aggravates the charge [2].

 

Despite ongoing criminal investigations, Seatrade sold two more ships – the SINA and ELLAN – for dirty and dangerous breaking on the beach in Alang, India, in August 2017”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “This case adds itself to the growing demand, including from investors and major shipping banks, for better ship recycling practices”, she adds.

 

Authorities in Norway, Belgium, and the UK will be paying close attention to the verdict of the case. Similar cases are currently being investigated there, involving shipping companies such as Maersk and CMB, as well as the world’s largest cash-buyers GMS and Wirana.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] Ships contain many substances that are toxic within their structure, including asbestos, heavy metals and residue oils. Since Seatrade specializes in transporting refrigerated goods, all the vessels additionally contained chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), a substance which is known to cause ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol (on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer), which entered into force in 1989, has since its adoption phased out and prohibited the use of CFCs.

 

[2] Earlier this year the world largest private investor, the Norwegian Oil Pension Fund, divested from four shipping companies due to their poor shipbreaking practices. They also argued that selling a vessel to a beaching yard “is a consequence of an active choice on the part of the company that owned the vessel to maximise its profit”.

 

Press Release – NGOs and trade unions denounce certification issued to PHP yard by classification society RINA

In October, the PHP Family (Peace Happiness and Prosperity) shipbreaking yard received a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention [1] by the Italian classification society RINA. Trade unions in Bangladesh, as well as the Platform’s member Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies (BILS), are concerned that such a labelling sets a dangerous precedent for the further green-washing of the Chittagong beaching yards. Workers and the environment are not protected as long as ships are broken on the beach, and as long as fundamental labour rights and proper infrastructure are not secured.

 

PHP is run by a renowned business family in Chittagong, who also runs activities in the steel re-rolling and construction industries, and owns TV channels. Trade unions made a formal request to represent the workers at the PHP yard, but the management has systematically rejected the workers’ right to freedom of association, and employees that have strongly engaged in demanding respect of workers’ rights have even been fired. Any worker association or NGO which does not praise PHP is received with hostility and is not even allowed to visit the yard. As reported yesterday by the Platform, accidents at the PHP shipbreaking yard continue to happen.

 

It is shocking that a company that rejects legitimate trade union activities can be stamped as operating in line with international laws”, says Nazim Uddin, local trade union leader and Bangladesh representative at IndustriALL.

 

Despite some investments in the PHP yard to concrete parts of the upper beach, the severe deficiencies in infrastructure for the containment of toxics renders any statement of compliance with pollution prevention standards ludicrous. When vessels are cut in the intertidal zone, toxics are inevitably released in the sea. The entire Chittagong area is heavily polluted, and there is no means for any beaching yard to handle and dispose hazardous waste, such as oil residues, heavy metals and asbestos, in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The Hong Kong Convention’s ship recycling requirements stop at the gate of the yard, therefore the fact that Bangladesh still has no waste treatment facility for general waste, let alone for the toxic materials coming from ships, is completely overlooked by the Convention. Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention are clearly no guarantee that the environment and workers are protected from the many risks connected to the heavy and hazardous industry of ship recycling.

 

That a beaching yard in Chittagong is able to comply with the Hong Kong Convention tells us a lot about the extremely low standard set by the International Maritime Organisation”, said Ingvild Jenssen, Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Any ship owner looking for a safe and clean location for the recycling of their ship will be wise to disregard the very misleading Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention, and instead consult the upcoming EU List of approved ship recycling facilities”, she adds.

 

An aerial view of the PHP shipbreaking yard – 2017 – © Google Earth

* Updated on 26 January 2018 – Quote by Nazim Uddin changed following his request

 

NOTE

 

[1] Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention were first issued to beaching yards by the Japanese company Class NK in Alang, India, last year. Other classification societies, such as RINA and the Indian Ship Registry, have now entered the business of issuing these statements, and a total of 47 yards have received such statements in India, whilst PHP is the first, and so far, the only one in Bangladesh.

 

Platform News – Atlantic Container Line steaming for sunshine

Grimaldi Group’s subsidiary ACL illegally exports toxic waste to South Asia, while authorities are inert

 

During the summer, the Swedish-flagged ATLANTIC CARTIER and ATLANTIC CONVEYOR, the two last G3 vessels operated by the Italian Grimaldi Group’s subsidiary Atlantic Container Line (ACL), were sold for demolition. The German competent authorities were alerted about the imminent illegal export of the ships from the port of Hamburg and prompted to take action to stop the vessels from departing. Despite the warnings and the clear signs that the ships were destined for scrap, the authorities did not halt the ships. The ATLANTIC CARTIER arrived in Alang, India, on the 20th of September, and the ATLANTIC CONVEYOR hit the beach on the 7th of October, after vessel tracking providers curiously indicated that the container carrier was “Steaming 4 Sunshine”.

 

 

International waste laws and the EU Waste Shipment Regulation are usually circumvented by ship owners who falsely declare that end-of-life ships are in continued operational use when leaving a port, thereby concealing the fact that they are destined for scrapping and have, therefore, become a waste. The cases of the CARTIER and the CONVEYOR are no exception.

 

The German authorities were not the only ones that have been contacted before the vessels’ final voyage. Also authorities from Canada and the UK, countries through which the CARTIER and the CONVEYOR sailed before arriving in Hamburg for their last EU port call, knew that the ships had been sold to the beach; yet, when questioned, ACL did not reveal that the ships were sold for breaking. Once having left the EU, both vessels operated for a short while in South-Eastern Africa – still under the same name, flag and ownership – waiting for the attention on them to fade. During that time, ACL contacted the Swedish authorities asking for advice on which steps should be taken if the company decided to recycle the ships. Despite the recommendations of Sweden to scrap the vessels in the EU or in an OECD country, there was no way to ensure that these recommendations would be followed, since at that point the ships were no longer in the EU. Rather, it is clear that this communication was a way for ACL to make it seem like the company had acted diligently by seeking advice from the flag-state, as well as to fraudulently make it seem as the decision to dispose of the container carriers was only taken once outside of EU waters.

 

According to the German port authorities, there was no evidence base for the arrest of the vessels, even though the logos of both the CARTIER and the CONVEYOR had been painted over before the final voyage. Moreover, it was well-known within the industry that these two sister ships would be sold for breaking in the summer, as ACL itself indicated that the ships would be scrapped on the cash-buyer GMS’ website last year. In light of this, the Platform has recently sent aletter to the German authorities asking them to hold Grimaldi Group’s ACL accountable for having breached European waste laws.

 

End-of-life sales to South Asian yards are done with the help of a cash-buyer, a company specialised in trading end-of-life vessels to the dirty and dangerous beaching yards. It is not the first time that Grimaldi Group sends its ships to be broken on the beaches: the ATLANTIC CONCERT and ATLANTIC COMPASS were beached in Alang last year. In 2016, during an official meeting in Rome, the Platform raised serious concerns regarding the more than 90 Italian-owned end-of-life vessels that had been sent to dirty and dangerous scrapping yards in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in the last seven years. The Platform advised the Italian Ship Owners Association, including representatives of Grimaldi Group, to stop selling their end-of-life vessels to unscrupulous cash buyers, and urged the Italian ship owners to ensure the safe and environmentally sound recycling of their ships. Hence, it is clear that the Platform’s message has not been taken into consideration.

 

Platform News – Investigations ongoing after Norwegian authorities press charges against owners of Harrier

The HARRIER is still under arrest in Norway after its owners failed to illegally set sail for the dangerous and dirty scrapping yards in Gadani, Pakistan, last February. The owners are now forced to find a safe and environmentally sound recycling destination. In parallel, investigations are still ongoing following the charges pressed by the Norwegian environmental authorities against the owners of the TIDE CARRIER for having attempted to breach existing waste trade laws [1].

 

At the edge of bankruptcy, Eide Group sold the previously named EIDE CARRIER, which had been laid up for 10 years, to cash buyer Wirana, a scrap dealer specialized in trading toxic ships to dirty and dangerous scrapping yards in South Asia. Wirana registered the vessel under an anonymous Saint Kitts and Nevis post box company called Julia Shipping Inc. The ship was renamed TIDE CARRIER and supposedly changed registry to the Paris MoU black-listed flag of Comoros. Based on fraudulent information that the vessel was heading for repair works in the Middle-East, Norwegian authorities allowed the ship to leave the west coast of Norway on 22 February 2017.

 

Had Wirana disclosed that the true destination was the beach of Gadani in Pakistan the vessel would not have been allowed to depart: exporting ships for dirty and dangerous scrapping is illegal under international waste trade laws. All ships contain many toxic materials within their structure and in their paints and the law requires that these should be managed in a way that protects people and the environment from harm. Extremely low operating standards at the beaching yards enable them to offer higher prices for the ships than facilities that operate in line with safety and environmental norms. Wirana knows this and the law very well, and for the sake of extra profits they therefore presented a fake contract for repairs in Oman.

 

However, the ship’s deteriorating condition caused the engine to stop only hours after its departure. Despite stormy weather, the vessel’s new captain from Nabeel Ship Management did not call for help. The risk of oil spill and grounding close to one of the most known beaches in Norway was high and was only dodged thanks to the Norwegian coastguard’s decision to trigger a salvage operation. An environmental disaster in Norway was avoided, and with the arrest of the ship in April the Norwegian authorities effectively averted another environmental injustice on the Gadani beach, where it was actually destined for scrap. Less than a year ago Gadani saw the worst shipbreaking catastrophe of the industry’s history[2].

 

Already in the summer of 2015, the Platform was informed that the vessel had been sold for breaking. Confronted with the illegality of exporting the ship to South Asia, Eide Group denied that the vessel would be scrapped at the time. One and a half years later, after the ship had been salvaged and was laid up in Gismarvik, the Environment Agency and the police found evidence that the vessel was under a “break up voyage” insurance from Norway to Gadani, Pakistan. That, and the fact that the contact person for Julia Shipping Inc in the sales contract that dated from summer 2015 is Keyur J. Dave, Chief Financial Officer at Wirana, are clear indicators that the vessel was headed to a scrap yard in Pakistan when it left Norway. All vessels broken in South Asia pass via the hands of a cash buyer. Singapore-based Wirana and US-based GMS are the two largest cash buyers, both of which are inherently entangled with the South Asian breakers.

 

Consequently, it became clear that the repair contract in Oman which had been provided to the Norwegian authorities as a way to escape checks for the illegal export of the vessel was false. The Norwegian Environment Ministry therefore rejected the complaint of Julia Shipping Inc, represented by law firm Wikborg Rein, for the arrest order. The post-box company Julia Shipping Inc refuses to reveal its ownership structure. To further point to the lack of accountability, the Norwegian newspaper, Bergens Tidende, revealed in a longer article, published in August, that when the Norwegian authorities had contacted the Comoros registry regarding the TIDE CARRIER, the Comoros registry answered that they did not have any information about the ship being registered under their flag. Only days later the vessel changed name again to HARRIER and swapped flags again to that of another Paris MoU black-listed flag: Palau. Both Comoros and Palau are popular end-of-life flags. In 2016, out of 668 ships that were beached, 42 had the flag of Palau and 47 were beached under the flag of Comoros. The now-called HARRIER is not allowed to leave Norway unless it is to sail to a ship recycling destination in line with international and European hazardous waste laws.

 

In the meantime the owners of the HARRIER owe the private port of Gismarvik and GMC Maritime several million NOK as port fees. The vessel left Gismarvik in June and is now anchored off the coast of Farsund where two crew members remain confined onboard the ship and the continuous use of the ship’s engine is creating unneglectable nuisance to local inhabitants.

 

© Jon Ingemundsen

This is not the first time that cash buyers seek to circumvent environmental protection laws by providing fake sales or repair contracts. The Norwegian owned CITY OF TOKYO was allowed to leave the port of Antwerp under the pretense of repair work in Dubai – instead it sailed directly to the infamous beaching yards in Bangladesh. The FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER was also illegally exported from the UK to Bangladesh under the pretense of further operational use in Nigeria. Cash buyer GMS used grey- and black listed Paris MoU flags and established anonymous post box companies in both cases.

 

The TIDE CARRIER case reveals the typical business practices of ship owners and cash buyers, and adds to several other cases where authorities have been lied to and provided false information as a way to escape checks for the illegal export of end-of-life ships. At least in the TIDE CARRIER case, the Norwegian authorities have so far not been gullible to fall for the well-known tricks of the game.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] See the Norwegian environmental authorities’ press release.

[2] See also our release on a second accident that took place earlier this year.