The Toxic Tide – 2023 Shipbreaking Records

THE TOXIC TIDE

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

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 446 ocean-going commercial ships and floating offshore units were sold to the scrap yards in 2024. Of these, 325 of the largest tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships ended up on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to more than 85% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.

 

Last year, at least 6 workers lost their lives when breaking apart vessels on the beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh, and another 19 were severely injured. Some of these accidents took place onboard vessels owned by well-known shipping companies, such as Polaris Shipping and Polys Haji-Ioannou Group.

 

 

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

 

Explore our Data Visualisation and read our Press Release.

 

 

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2023

Shipping industry's disgrace: 85 percent of global tonnage scrapped on three beaches in South Asia

 

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 446 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were scrapped in 2023. The vast majority, 325 ships in total, were taken apart on a beach in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. Most vessels scrapped originally belonged to shipping companies in East Asia and Europe.

"There is no possibility to take apart a ship on a beach in a way that is environmentally sustainable and safe for workers. Shipping companies are dodging their responsibility to make sure their toxic waste does not harm workers’ health and sensitive coastal environments."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In South Asia, workers are exposed to explosions, falling steel plates and toxic fumes and substances that can be found within the ships’ structures. Toxic waste leaks into the ocean and affects marine life, while also making its way into ground water and agricultural fields. The air is polluted far beyond internationally accepted levels, also as a result of the low-cost method used in the region to re-roll contaminated ship scrap steel.

 

In 2023, at least 6 workers lost their lives when breaking apart vessels on the beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh, and another 19 were severely injured. Some of these accidents took place onboard vessels owned by well-known shipping companies, such as South Korean Sinokor and Greek Polys Haji-Ioannou Group. 

"It is expected that many accidents go unreported due to lack of transparency. There is furthermore no official monitoring and recording of occupational diseases, including cancer, of which many more workers suffer."
Sara Costa - Project Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

DUMPERS 2023 – Worst practices

 

China tops the list of country dumper in 2023. Despite the existence of state-of-the-art ship recycling facilities at national level, Chinese owners sold 71 vessels for scrapping in South Asia, 59 of which were beached in Bangladesh. While China has banned  the import of waste as part of its efforts to clean its own environment and improve the quality of life of its citizens, the Chinese shipping industry is getting away with dumping its toxic waste on some of the most vulnerable communities and environments in the world. 

 

Hong Kong, UAE, Thailand, Greece, Russia and South Korea follow as worst dumpers in 2023 with more than a dozen ships beached each.

 

Swiss containership giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is the 2023 worst corporate dumper. Despite having been repeatedly and strongly criticised for its dumping of more than one hundred ships in the last decade, MSC scrapped no less than 14 of its old container ships in Alang, India, in 2023. The MSC FLORIANA and MSC GIOVANNA respectively left from Spanish and Turkish waters for scrap in clear breach of European and international law that bans the export of hazardous waste from OECD to non-OECD countries. Illegal exports of end-of-life ships is a criminal offence. 

"It is beyond shameful for a company that makes billions of yearly profit to knowingly persist exploiting workers while turning a blind eye to the environmental degradation caused by beaching. Ironically, MSC recently committed to prevent known illegal exporters of waste use their ships to facilitate illegal waste trade. We call on MSC to make the same commitment with regards to their own toxic waste."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Evergreen, Gearbulk, Green Reefers, Maersk, Sinokor and Zodiac Group Monaco are other well-known companies that sold their toxic assets for scrapping on South Asian beaches in 2023.


Conditions at the ship recycling yards in Aliaga, Turkey, have also come under the spotlight in a new report. Pollution and poor occupational health and safety conditions occur at all stages of the ship recycling process, including the management of waste water and disposal of the hazardous materials originating from ships. Recent audits and unannounced inspections of the facilities by the European Commission furthermore revealed that actual day-to-day practices do not comply with the standard required for EU approval. 

"While regulatory gaps need to be closed in Turkey to ensure proper permitting and monitoring of the sector, the European Union can play an important role by sustaining unannounced inspections and reviewing their standard for ship recycling to include clear requirements for waste management and the use of safer and cleaner technologies, such as cold cutting and dry docks."
Ekin Sakin - Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Environmental and labour laws that regulate ship recycling exist, but they are ignored and easily circumvented by ship owners. In a report on the conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh, it is revealed how middle men scrap dealers, known as cash buyers, re-name, re-register and re-flag end-of-life ships prior to their last voyage to the beaching yards in an attempt to conceal original ownership. Almost half of the ships beached in 2023 changed their original flag to a grey- or black-listed flag registry just weeks before hitting the beach. The flags of Cameroon, Comoros, Mongolia, Palau, St Kitts & Nevis and Tanzania were particularly popular with cash buyers. At least two of these flag changes enabled Greek companies Danaos Shipping and Ilios Shipping to circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation which requires EU flagged vessels to only be dismantled in EU approved ship recycling facilities. 

"The EU shipping sector is not being held accountable for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling. The number of ships with an EU flag at end-of-life is dwarfed by the amount of European tonnage beached in South Asia, and begs for the extension of the scope of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation to include ownership, not only flag."
Benedetta Mantoan - Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Looking ahead, the number of ships that will need to be dismantled is expected to surge. At the same time, the growing focus on circularity and demand for low-carbon scrap steel provides opportunities to transform the ship recycling sector. EU legislation on ship recycling will be reviewed, providing an opportunity to close existing loopholes and enhance corporate accountability.

"We applaud the forward-looking governments and companies that are developing laws, policies and technologies to encourage the expansion of sustainable ship recycling capacity. The new regulation issued by the UAE Government and the new policy adopted by Brazilian Petrobras considerably raise the bar for ship recycling, and showcase that it is possible for both governments and companies to say no to beaching."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Read more about the pioneers of green ship recycling in our Breaking Out magazine.

 

 

For the data visualization of 2023 shipbreaking records, click here. *

For the full Excel dataset of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2023, 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 1 February - Two ships, which were scrapped in the Netherlands, were excluded from the dataset because their actual gross tonnage (GT) fell below 500.

*** UPDATE 2 February - The Platform was made aware by Polaris Shipping that it had wrongly attributed the accidents in Bangladesh to vessels owned by Polaris. Three accidents took place on vessels owned by South Korean Sinokor, not Polaris, and the text has now been rectified. Polaris has not sold any vessel for scrapping since the second quarter of 2021.

Press Release – Ship recycling in Aliağa under the spotlight

NGOs call on Turkey and the EU to bring needed change and transition the sector towards dry docks

 

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform publishes today its report Ship Recycling in Turkey: Challenges and Future Direction. While the report provides a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges faced by the ship recycling sector in Aliağa [1], it also underscores the immense potential for driving forward sustainable ship recycling practices and demonstrates a clear path towards achieving this goal. [2]

 

Turkey stands at a crossroads as the recent announcement of plot sales in October 2023 and the upcoming expiration of public land leases in 2026 create an opening to bring needed change to its ship recycling industry. 

"The Ministries of Environment, Labour and Transport should seize this opportunity to facilitate the transition of the ship recycling sector towards sustainable practices. To ensure the resilience of industry in Turkey, it is crucial that existing regulatory gaps are addressed through the implementation of forward-thinking and comprehensive legislation, and that investments and incentives to introduce safer and cleaner technologies, including cold cutting and dry docks, are mobilised."
Ekin Sakin - Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Some of the key operational priorities highlighted in the report include putting in place effective drainage channels and the use of oil-water separators for waste water treatment. Additionally, there is a need for third-party verification of hazardous materials during dismantling, proper operations for hazardous waste removal, and the establishment of standards for secure pulling and lifting equipment, along with introduction of proper gas-free operations and cold-cutting techniques.

 

To ensure adequate oversight of the sector, a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is necessary. This assessment should define environmental licensing processes and enforce existing legal instruments for permitting and monitoring, taking into consideration both safety and environmental aspects. It is also important to continuously monitor the environment in and around ship recycling yards to identify sources of pollution and develop effective remediation strategies. Furthermore, occupational health monitoring is required to identify the underlying causes of accidents and work-related illnesses.

"The health and safety of ship recycling workers must be prioritised. Worker health, public health, and environmental health are interconnected, and to effectively oversee and manage the ship recycling industry it is crucial to address both labour and environmental concerns in a comprehensive manner."
Aslı Odman - Istanbul Worker's Health and Safety Watch

 

Whilst two yards in Aliağa were removed from the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities last year, other non-compliant yards have been allowed to remain listed. As stressed in the report, the lack of governance that allows yards to operate without EIAs or adequate monitoring underscores the necessity for more frequent and unannounced EU inspections, including cross-referencing hazardous waste records and incorporating workers’ perspectives and experience to inform evaluations. 

 

Recognising the pivotal role of the European Union (EU) in driving improvements, the report also recommends strengthening the criteria for ship recycling, including waste management and steel recovery operations, under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation.

"As Turkey, the EU is also at a crossroad with the ongoing review of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. We urge the EU to require cleaner technologies and follow the recent steps taken by the UAE on the future direction of the industry and its transition to dry docks."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NOTES

 

[1] Problems identified in the report include high levels of air, soil and water pollution, dysfunctional waste water management systems, failure to provide appropriate protective equipment to workers, irregularities in asbestos management, lack of Environmental Impact Assessments and poor monitoring of the sector. 

 

[2] This path towards sustainable ship recycling in Turkey involves the implementation of a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment, new industrial platforms to ensure containment, cutting-edge technologies to minimize risks, ensuring safe working conditions and worker participation, and implementing a robust waste management plan to safeguard workers, local communities, and the environment.

 

[3] The UAE has surpassed the standards set in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation through the introduction of new national rules that prohibit the use of beaching (as practices in Alang in India, Chattogram in Bangladesh and Gadani in Pakistan) and landing methods (as practiced in Aliağa in Turkey), and require the use of dry docks.

 

 

FULL REPORT

 

English version

 

Turkish version

 

Press Release – UAE takes important steps towards sustainable ship recycling

NGOs call on the European Union and ship owners to follow suit

 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s new Ship Recycling Regulation requires a dry dock or equivalent infrastructures for environmentally sound ship recycling. Set to take effect from June 2025, this transformative legislation effectively brings about a ban on the beaching and landing of UAE-flagged vessels as well as all foreign vessels leaving or transiting through UAE waters enroute to scrap yards. [1]

"We applaud the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure for this bold move, which is poised to have a profound impact, particularly on the prevalent practice of delivering end-of-life vessels to cash buyers in UAE waters before their final journey to South Asian beaches. "
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Beaching is already banned in other major ship owning countries, including the European Union (EU), China and Japan. The UAE's new rules surpass the EU Ship Recycling Regulation by banning the landing method as practiced in Aliaga, Turkey. They furthermore ban the re-flagging of vessels for the purpose of scrapping them at beaching or landing facilities.

"We strongly urge the EU to align its Ship Recycling Regulation, currently under review, with the recent steps taken by the UAE. Stopping the practice of circumventing legislation by out-flagging is crucial, and closing the avenue for employing the worst ship recycling methods, i.e. beaching and landing, is imperative for safeguarding workers’ safety and ecosystems."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The new UAE Ship Recycling Regulation aims to encourage the growth of compliant ship recycling facilities. Whilst a dry-dock facility is already conducting ship recycling in neighbouring Bahrain, more dry-dock capacity that can ensure full containment of hazardous materials and pollution is needed to accommodate the many vessels that will reach the end of their lives in the coming years. 

"UAE ship owners have a track record of using beaching yards for the scrapping of their vessels. We therefore welcome the UAE government’s announcements that they will boost dry-dock capacity and ensure that all end-of-life ships in their waters only head towards facilities that operate in an environmentally sound manner. We encourage the shipping sector to join in on this effort to clean up its last act."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NOTE

 

[1] The Regulation applies to UAE-flagged vessels and 

- Foreign ships where the decision to recycle the ship was made when the vessel was in UAE waters. 

- Foreign ships that have commenced the final voyage for recycling directly from UAE waters, with or without any technical stops in between while enroute to the recycling facility or have stopped at a UAE port or anchorage while on their way to the recycling facility.

 

Bangladesh: shipping firms profit from labour abuse

BANGLADESH: SHIPPING FIRMS PROFIT FROM LABOUR ABUSE

EU should revise law to promote safe, sustainable ship recycling

 

A new report released by Human Rights Watch and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform finds that Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards often take shortcuts on safety measures, dump toxic waste directly onto the beach and the surrounding environment, and deny workers living wages, rest, or compensation in case of injuries. The report reveals an entire network used by shipowners to circumvent international regulations prohibiting the export of ships to facilities like those in Bangladesh that do not have adequate environmental or labor protections.

 

 

 

Press Release – Bangladesh: shipping firms profit from labour abuse

EU should revise law to promote safe, sustainable ship recycling

 


- Many European shipping companies are knowingly sending their end-of-life ships for scrap in dangerous and polluting yards in Bangladesh.

 

- Companies scrapping ships in Bangladesh’s yards use loopholes in international rules to profit at the expense of Bangladeshi lives and the environment.

 

- Shipping companies should invest in building stable platform facilities at a standard that fully protects workers’ rights and handles waste disposal. The EU should revise its rules to close loopholes.


Many European shipping companies are knowingly sending their end-of-life ships for scrap in dangerous and polluting yards in Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said in a report released today.

 

The 90-page report “Trading Lives for Profit: How the Shipping Industry Circumvents Regulations to Scrap Toxic Ships on Bangladesh’s Beaches” finds that Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards often take shortcuts on safety measures, dump toxic waste directly onto the beach and the surrounding environment, and deny workers living wages, rest, or compensation in case of injuries. The report reveals an entire network used by shipowners to circumvent international regulations prohibiting the export of ships to facilities like those in Bangladesh that do not have adequate environmental or labor protections.

"Companies scrapping ships in Bangladesh’s dangerous and polluting yards are making a profit at the expense of Bangladeshi lives and the environment. Shipping companies should stop using loopholes in international regulations and take responsibility for safely and responsibly managing their waste."
Julia Bleckner - Senior Asia Researcher - Human Rights Watch

The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which will enter into force in 2025, should be strengthened to ensure a safe and sustainable ship recycling industry, the groups said. Countries should adhere to existing international labor and environmental laws regulating the disposal of ships, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
 
The report draws on interviews with 45 shipbreaking workers and workers’ relatives and 10 doctors and experts on ship recycling and Bangladesh environmental and labor laws, as well as analysis of public shipping databases, company financial reports and websites, Bangladesh maritime import records, and leaked import certificates. Human Rights Watch wrote to 21 companies seeking a response to our findings, including shipbreaking yards, shipping companies, flag registries, and cash buyers as well as the International Maritime Organization and four Bangladeshi government agencies.
Bangladesh is a top destination for scrapping ships. Since 2020, approximately 20,000 Bangladeshi workers have ripped apart more than 520 ships, far more tonnage than in any other country.
 
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has described shipbreaking as one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. Workers consistently said that they are not provided with adequate protective equipment, training, or tools to safely do their jobs. Workers described using their socks as gloves to avoid burning their hands as they cut through molten steel, wrapping their shirts around their mouths to avoid inhaling toxic fumes, and carrying chunks of steel barefoot.
 
Workers described injuries from falling chunks of steel or being trapped inside a ship when it caught fire or pipes exploded. Lack of accessible emergency medical care at shipyards meant that, in many cases, workers were forced to carry their injured coworkers from the beach to the road and find a private vehicle to take them to a hospital. In Bangladesh, the life expectancy for men in the shipbreaking industry is 20 years lower than the average. As a 31-year-old worker said, “If I am distracted for even a moment in the place where I work, I could die immediately.”
 
A 2019 survey of shipbreaking workers estimated that 13 percent of the workforce are children. Researchers noted, however, that this number jumps to 20 percent during illegal night shifts. Many workers interviewed began working at about age 13.
Shipbreaking workers said that they are often denied breaks or sick leave, even when they are injured on the job, violating Bangladesh labor laws. In most cases, workers are paid a fraction of what they are legally entitled to under Bangladesh’s minimum wage regulations for shipbreaking workers. Workers are rarely given formal contracts, which means that yard owners can cover up worker deaths and injuries. When workers attempt to unionize or protest conditions, they are fired and harassed.
 
Shipyards in Bangladesh use a method called “beaching” in which ships sail full steam onto the beach during high tide to be taken apart directly on the sand instead of using a dock or contained platform. Since the work is done directly on the sand, the worksite itself is full of hazards and toxic waste is dumped directly into the sand and sea. Toxic materials from the vessels, including asbestos, is handled without protective equipment and in some cases sold on the second-hand market, affecting health in surrounding communities.

International and regional laws prohibit the export of ships to places like the yards in Bangladesh that do not have adequate environmental or labor protections. Yet many shipping companies have simply found ways to circumvent regulations and avoid culpability, Human Rights Watch and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said.
 
Ships sailing under an EU flag are required to recycle their ships in an EU-approved facility, none of which are in Bangladesh. Companies avoid the requirements by using a “flag of convenience” from another country.
 
Flags of convenience are sold by flag registries which, in many cases, are private companies operating in a different country from their flag state. In 2022, while over 30 percent of the world’s end-of-life fleet was owned by European companies, less than 5 percent had an EU flag when they were sold for scrap.
 
Shipping companies hoping to dump their ships in Bangladesh usually sell their ship to a scrap dealer called a cash buyer. In many cases, the buyer uses a shell company during its sale to scrapyards in Bangladesh, making it difficult to track the entity that actually controls and benefits from the sale.
 
A lack of enforcement of international laws and regulatory standards further enables ships to be scrapped under dangerous and environmentally damaging conditions. Waste declarations for ships imported to Bangladesh are often completed without any oversight, transparency, or clear accreditation, with potentially fatal consequences. Exporting countries outright ignore the requirements under the Basel Convention to obtain prior informed consent from the importing country and to ensure that end-of-life ships are only sent to countries with sufficient capacity for environmentally sustainable management of toxic waste.
 
While the International Maritime Organization (IMO), shipping companies, and shipbreaking yards promote the Hong Kong Convention as the solution to a safe and sustainable ship recycling industry, experts and activists have long-lamented major gaps in the convention that weaken its ability to provide an adequate level of regulation.

 

Instead of investing time and resources in greenwashing unsafe practices, companies should invest in proven safe methods of ship recycling, and they should stop insisting that beaching ships is safe, Human Rights Watch and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said.
 
To ensure global capacity to safely recycle the projected massive influx in end-of-life ships over the next decade, shipping companies should invest in building stable platform facilities at a standard that fully protects workers’ rights and include mechanisms for the downstream management and disposal of waste, Human Rights Watch and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said. The EU should revise its Ship Recycling Regulation to effectively hold shipping companies liable and stop them from circumventing the law.

"Taking ships apart on tidal mudflats exposes workers to unacceptable risks with fatal consequences and causes irreparable damage to sensitive coastal ecosystems. The cost of sustainable ship recycling must be borne by the shipping sector, not people and the environment in Bangladesh."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

CONTACTS

 

For Human Rights Watch, in Nairobi, Julia Bleckner (English): +1-917-890-4195 (mobile); or blecknj@hrw.org

 
For NGO Shipbreaking Platform, in Brussels, Ingvild Jenssen (English, French, Norwegian) +32-485-190-920 (mobile); or ingvild@shipbreakingplatform.org.

 
For Human Rights Watch, in London, Meenakshi Ganguly (English, Bengali, Hindi): +91-9820-036-032 (mobile); or gangulm@hrw.org. Twitter: @mg2411

 

Press Release – Ship owner and two directors fined by Dutch Court for breaching EU waste law

Last week, a judgment was handed down by a Rotterdam Court in the Netherlands, convicting the Dutch shipping company Jumbo and two of its directors for their involvement in the illegal export of an end-of-life ship to Turkey for recycling. 

 

The verdict was issued for the breach of the notification procedures under the European Waste Shipment Regulation. The court imposed a fine of 25.000 euros on ship owner Jumbo, while the directors were individually fined 2.500 euros. The Public Prosecution Service had initially sought community service for the directors and a fine of 100.000 euros for the company.

 

The ruling addressed the sale of two end-of-life ships in 2014 and 2015. In both instances, Jumbo had failed to submit the notification documents that guarantee the informed consent for the cross-border movement of end-of-life vessels, which are considered hazardous waste under EU and international law. However, in one of the cases, the defendants were acquitted as the ship was found to be situated outside EU waters at the time of the decision to sell the it for scrap.

"We applaud Dutch authorities for their continued efforts to crack down on the illegal trafficking of toxic ships. This particular case, however, sadly showcases how easily ship owners can avoid being held accountable by simply moving the vessel outside EU waters prior to selling for scrap. Where the ship is located should thus not be the only factor relevant to determine jurisdiction. Indeed, vessels are intended to move internationally, and in the Jumbo case the decision to scrap was taken by a company domiciled in the Netherlands, with headquarters in Schiedam."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In the last eight years, several ship owners and individuals have been held liable by Dutch courts for breaching international and European waste laws. More cases are under criminal investigation in other EU Member States, including Germany, where more than 100 police officers raided the offices of renowned Hamburg-based shipping companies in 2021. Last year, the Norwegian Supreme Court confirmed  the sentencing of six months to prison for a ship owner that had attempted to scrap a vessel in Pakistan. Yet, the majority of European shipping companies that keep scrapping old tonnage at substandard shipbreaking yards are still treated with impunity as they take advantage of loopholes in existing laws.

"The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling for a review of the EU law applicable to end-of-life vessels that will effectively ensure that ship owners are held accountable in their own jurisdictions. Dirty and dangerous shipbreaking is a serious environmental crime and enforcement authorities must be given the means to effectively stop illicit practices of EU-domiciled companies."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – Petrobras to recycle offshore unit in Brazil for the first time

Petrobras, the major Brazilian energy company, has achieved a significant milestone in its new commitment to sustainable ship recycling with the successful conclusion of the auction for the disposal of a floating offshore platform in Brazil.

 

The sale of the floating unit P-32, which has operated in the Marlim field of the Campos Basin, took place on 7 July 2023. In a collaboration supervised by Petrobras, the  steel company Gerdau S.A. and shipyard Ecovix have been entrusted with the responsible and environmentally sound recycling of the platform.

"This decision marks the first time a commercial vessel at the end of its lifecycle will be dismantled in Brazil. This significant move not only paves the way for the development of a recycling industry in Brazil but also sets an important precedent for the shipping and oil and gas sectors, encouraging other ship owners to adopt similar strategies for capacity building."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Over the next five years, Petrobras is expected to retire at least 26 units, with a projected investment of US$ 9.8 billion allocated towards decommissioning activities. Just a few months ago, the oil and gas giant announced the adoption of a new policy mandating the recycling of vessels only in facilities equipped with dry-docks or impermeable surfaces with drainage systems. This off the beach stance places the company among an increasing number of responsible ship owners, including competitors SBM Offshore and Shell, that are choosing facilities with infrastructure enabling the safe and environmentally sound management of their end-of-life assets.

 

"After years of selling numerous old vessels for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking on the shores of South Asia, Petrobras has finally committed to environmental stewardship by unequivocally disavowing such practices. Moreover, their decision to opt for a domestic solution, leveraging the state-of-the-art infrastructure available in Brazil, showcases that it is possible to find alternative and better solutions to beaching."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – NGOs call on the Netherlands to push for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of FSO Safer

As the operations for the removal of the oil on-board the decaying Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) vessel SAFER are taking place off the coast of Yemen, the UNDP is looking for a destination for the FSO’s recycling. NGOs have urged the UNDP to find a solution that effectively addresses the inherent risks associated with the dismantling process and the management of the hazardous materials that will remain on-board. Now, they are calling on the Dutch government, one of the biggest donors to the Stop Red Sea Oil Pollution operation, to follow suit and assist UNDP in identifying a suitable recycling facility.  

 

The Netherlands has shown leadership in preventing the environmental disaster an oil spill from the FSO Safer would have caused, with also Dutch company Boskalis, via its subsidiary SMIT Salvage, tasked with the removal of the oil from the FSO. Referring to Dutch involvement in the Stop Red Sea Oil Pollution operation, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liesje Schreinemacher, announced that “The Netherlands will continue helping the UN to bring this to a good end.” 

"A good end entails ensuring that the FSO SAFER is recycled at a facility that fully respects labour rights, operates from a dry-dock or features on the European List of approved ship recycling facilities. The Dutch government is a pioneer in environmentally friendly technologies implementing sound life-cycle practices, and Boskalis has been at the forefront as one of the first ship owners in the world to adopt an ‘off the beach’ ship recycling policy. This should guide the so far successful Stop Red Sea Oil Pollution operation’s final and equally crucial stage."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Shipping broker Clarkson, on behalf of the UNDP, has already received bids for the towing and scrapping of the vessel. The NGOs have urged UNDP to comply with international waste law and opt for a final destination that can guarantee practices beyond the weak standards set by the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention [1], and are aware that alternative and more sustainable solutions off the beach are at the UNDP’s disposal.

 

NOTES
 

[1] Several yards located on the beaches in India and Bangladesh and major cash buyers, which regularly sell end-of-life vessels for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking, have shown interest in scrapping the FSO SAFER. Facilities that practice the beaching method have a documented lack of capacity to ensure the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and are therefore likely to offer the highest price for the asset, leaving workers, local communities and the environment to pay the price of toxic exposure.

Press Release – Human rights and environmental NGOs urge UNDP to ensure the clean and safe recycling of FSO Safer

In a letter addressed to the UNDP, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Basel Action Network (BAN), and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, representing a global coalition of human rights and environmental organisations, call for the recycling of the Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) vessel SAFER in accordance with international law and UNDP's own ethical and sustainability policies.

 

The NGOs warn against the possibility of the FSO being scrapped at one of the notorious South Asian shipbreaking yards known for their poor working conditions and the irreversible harm their operations cause to public health and fragile ecosystems.

"Now that a successful operation has commenced for removing oil from the FSO SAFER [1], it is essential that the UNDP addresses the inherent risks associated with the cleaning of the vessel’s tanks and its scrapping. We urge the UNDP to exercise due diligence when selecting the final recycling destination."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The FSO SAFER likely contains significant amounts of toxic substances and materials, including asbestos, mercury-contaminated oil residues and heavy metal-laden paints, that may cause damage to human health and the environment.

 

The UNDP must ensure compliance with the UN Basel Convention, which regulates the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes, and that the recycling of the FSO SAFER is carried out in a facility that respects international labour rights; guarantees full containment of pollutants via a dry-dock or equivalent infrastructure; and is capable of managing all hazardous materials onboard and embedded within the FSO’s structure in a safe and environmentally sound manner. In view of the vessel’s dire condition, precautions must furthermore be taken to avoid that the contaminated structure sinks during its transport to the recycling yard.

"The UNDP cannot allow its Stop Red Sea Oil Spill operation end with the FSO SAFER putting workers, local communities and the environment in South Asia at risk. The shipbreaking beaches in South Asia are already some of the most polluted beaches in the world. Alternatives exist [2], and the UNDP must opt a facility that operates in accordance with industry best practice and uses environmentally friendly technologies implementing sound life-cycle practices."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NOTES
 

[1] The FSO SAFER, carrying approximately 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, has been laid-up since 2015 due to the conflict in Yemen. Its deteriorating condition poses a severe risk of the vessel breaking and causing a massive oil spill to the Red Sea which would represent an ecological and humanitarian disaster. In response to this imminent threat, the United Nations have prompted collaborative efforts to cover the costs related to the removal of the oil onboard and preparation of the vessel for recycling. Donors, private companies and members of the public have so far contributed $100 million toward the UN plan to prevent the spill, and Dutch company Boskalis, via its subsidiary SMIT Salvage, has now been tasked with the removal of the oil from the FSO. Simultaneously, shipping broker Clarkson, on behalf of UNDP, is currently accepting bids for the towing and scrapping of the vessel.

 

[2] See the recent publication Breaking Out: Anchoring Circular Innovation for Ship Recycling by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.