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.

 

Press Release – Local residents rally against shipbreaking operation in Union Bay, British Columbia

Local residents marched last Sunday at Union Bay, traditional unceded territory of First Nations within Baynes Sound, British Columbia, Canada, to protest against the dirty and dangerous scrapping operations carried out in the area by Deep Water Recovery Ltd (DWR). More than a hundred of people, including actress and activist Sarah Wayne Callies and MP Gord Johns, gathered at the Union Bay Community Hall demanding, once again, urgent action from federal, provincial and regional authorities.

 

First Nations, national NGOs and international groups, alongside local residents, have been opposing for more than two years the shipbreaking activities of DWR, which has been caught acting in contravention of laws several times, but has not yet been punished for it.

 

In 2022, the Comox Valley Regional District sought an injunction against DWR, accusing the company of violating regional bylaws. DWR has also been found to be out of compliance four times under British Columbia’s Environmental Management Act and Hazardous Waste Regulations. In fact, testing conducted at the site recently revealed concentrations of copper, lead, zync and cadmium above permitted levels. Still, operations at DWR continue, with the former US government-owned vessel NOAAS Miller Freeman (R 223) being slowly pulled ashore. Given its age and type, the NOAAS Miller Freeman is likely to contain high amounts of hazardous substances in its structures, such as toxic paints and asbestos. A petroleum spill already occurred on November 2022 as the vessel was being dragged onto the beach.

"Allowing in the first place the setting up of such a hazardous operation adjacent to a residential area and in an ecologically sensitive zone is unacceptable. The inability of competent authorities to prioritise public and environmental health in spite of the blatant disregard of international and national rules and standards at the shipbreaking plot is even more worrying. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform shows its full support to the local community of Baynes Sound and calls, once more, upon competent bodies to halt immediately all scrapping activities conducted by the operator."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – Container shipping asked to clean up its act in view of upcoming scrapping wave


Triggered by overcapacity, lower freight rates and the new carbon regulations expected this year, numerous container ships will be sold for scrapping in the near future. In light of this foreseeable surge in the number of discarded box ships, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform has reached out to the largest companies of the sector demanding change in corporate policies and practices by encouraging the pursuit of sustainable solutions.

 

Several container shipping companies have already been in the spotlight due to the poor management of their end-of-life vessels. NGOs and Danish media revealed the hypocrisy of Maersk when they decided in 2016 to U-turn on their recycling policy and head for the Indian beaches. The profits made by Swiss giant MSC on the back of exploited workers and coastal environments also caused public outcry, and, in 2018, Scandinavian pension funds, including the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, divested from Taiwanese container line Evergreen due to the breach of international human rights and the severe environmental damage caused by the beaching of their vessels.

 

Ships contain many hazardous substances and materials that may negatively affect people and the environment. Hence, it is crucial that their dismantling is carried out in an environmentally sound and safe manner at a recycling destination that can safeguard workers’ health and protect local communities and ecosystems from pollution. Progressive companies and recycling businesses are looking at the EU Ship Recycling Regulation as the only responsible standard regulating this industry. South Asian beaching yards fail to comply with this standard, and more recently two Turkish facilities were removed from the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities.

 

With increasing focus on sustainability and due diligence, including pressure from investors and clients, many container lines need to revise their ship recycling practices and policies. Beaching is by far the worst industrial practice, as is the practice of down-cycling and re-rolling contaminated scrap steel. Options that operate with standards on safety, circularity and material recovery in line with international labour and environmental law and ESG expectations already exist. With the projected growth in demand for capacity to recycle large vessels, the NGOs call on the box ship sector to show leadership and support the scaling of truly sustainable ship recycling solutions.

 

Press Release – Brazil deliberately sinks its toxic aircraft carrier 
in the Atlantic Ocean


Violation of three environmental treaties called absolutely unnecessary by NGOs

 

Last night, the Brazilian Navy, after months of refusing to allow its old aircraft carrier SÃO PAULO to safely return to a Naval base, detonated explosives placed on the vessel’s massive hull to send it to the bottom of the sea, claiming it was a danger to the Brazilian coastline due to its structural condition. 
 

With the sinking of the ship went also several million dollars worth of recyclable steel and other metals, an estimated 760 tonnes of hazardous asbestos, more than 300 tonnes of material contaminated with highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and additional tonnage of heavy metal-laden paint, all of which will no doubt contaminate the marine ecosystem in the dumpsite area for years to come. Environmentalists who had been working to facilitate the legal and safe recycling of the vessel are horrified by the decision. 

"We are in shock because we have been asking the Brazilian Navy to simply return the ship to a naval base for months, to get a proper survey of the hazardous materials on board. Now it's become clear that they would rather contaminate the environment and lose millions of dollars to avoid allowing further scrutiny of the true contents of the ship. The sinking was completely unnecessary."
Jim Puckett - Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)

The NGOs consider the deliberate dumping an environmental tragedy as the heavy metals and the PCBs will continue to leach into the marine environment in the foreseeable future. The sister ship of the SÃO PAULO, the CLEMENCEAU, was found to contain several hundred tonnes of PCB-contaminated material on board when it was recycled in the UK years ago. PCBs are extremely toxic and persistent chemicals that have been banned for many years due to their propensity to cause harm to wildlife and contaminate the food chain after being ingested by fish and other marine animals.

 

It was 2022 when the NGO Shipbreaking Platform noticed numerous discrepancies and irregularities regarding the amounts of hazardous materials onboard in the paperwork prepared before the export of the SÃO PAULO to a recycling yard in Turkey. Brazilian authorities refused to make any corrections and, instead, released the vessel in August. As the ship was almost ready to enter the Mediterranean Sea, the Turkish government, however, agreed with the environmentalists and withdrew its consent to receive it until a more thorough assessment of the hazards onboard could be independently conducted. At that point, as per the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, Brazil recalled the ship presumably for safe management. Yet, when the SÃO PAULO returned, rather than being directed back to the Rio de Janeiro base from where it had departed, the Navy refused to allow it to dock there or at any other Naval base. Months passed with other states and commercial ports likewise refusing entry, as the owner begged for relief after towing the ship at sea for 3 months, burning fuel and money. On January 13, a survey was suddenly conducted showing water leaking into the vessel. The ship was given about 4 more weeks by the salvage master before it might no longer be safe to move it. Once again, the Navy refused to bring it to the dock for repair. Instead, on January 20, the Navy suddenly forced the convoy 200 miles further off-shore, announcing soon after the intention to sink the vessel. An attempt to obtain an injunction against the sinking failed. Now the SÃO PAULO has been sunk, still without explanation as to why the Navy never brought its old ship to base -- the obvious legal and logical solution.

 

What the Navy has done violated three international environmental treaties. First, failure to bring a ship returned from an aborted transboundary movement of waste back into the territory of the exporting State for safe management is a violation of the Basel Convention. Second, disposing of PCBs in the sea is a violation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Third, dumping ships at sea without first cleaning them of toxic substances is a violation of the London Convention and Protocol.

"What happened last night will go down in history as the single most blatant violation of chemicals and waste treaties ever to take place at the hands of a country. An independent inquiry as to why this took place must be undertaken to ensure that such a thing never happens again."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform