Press Release – NGOs call upon authorities to sanction illegal exports of cruises

The cruise sector has been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many ship owners forced to file bankruptcy or take steps to reduce operating expenses, including the retirement of relatively young ships. According to shipping databases, at least twenty-four passenger ships have already been sold for scrapping in the last fifteen months.

 

Whilst major cruise line Carnival Corporation has committed to recycling its vessels in a responsible manner, and companies such as Pullmantur have also chosen EU-vetted recycling facilities for their end-of-life ships, other unscrupulous owners have opted for the more profitable beaching yards in South Asia where conditions are known to put both workers and the environment at risk. In doing so, some companies have fraudulently hidden their intention to scrap the vessels in order to circumvent existing waste laws.

 

The cruise ships MARCO POLO and MAGELLAN left the UK for scrapping on the Indian beach of Alang. Both ships had sailed for UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) which entered administration in 2020 due to the pandemic. Auctioned off by CW Kellock & Co in October 2020, the vessels illegally left UK waters with crew and under own power in November 2020. [1]  The MARCO POLO and the MAGELLAN are believed to contain high amounts of asbestos in their structures. According to the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, the Basel Convention and equivalent national laws, the export of end-of-life ships laden with asbestos and other toxic materials from the UK to non-OECD countries is banned.

"The many risks involved in taking apart large vessels that contain numerous hazardous substances within their structure need to be managed at sites that can protect workers, safely use heavy lifting cranes, contain pollutants and dispose of hazardous materials in line with international waste laws."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has alerted UK authorities about the illegal exports, including also the one related to another asbestos-laden former CMV ship, the ASTOR, which ended up at a ship recycling yard in Aliaga, Turkey. Whilst Turkey is a legal OECD recycling destination, there are concerns that the transboundary movement from the UK took place without the necessary permission procedure and prior informed consent as required by international waste legislation.

 

A fourth vessel auctioned off by CW Kellock & Co, the COLUMBUS, recently left Greece and, as we write, is sailing towards Alang, India. The Platform raised concerns with Greek authorities before the vessel departed since several sources suggested the vessel was a candidate for scrap. Seajets, the company that bought the MAGELLAN, is also the buyer of the COLUMBUS.  

"We will closely follow the COLUMBUS and call upon both Greek and UK authorities to effectively sanction environmental crime. Several cruise companies have shown that it is possible to responsibly manage their ships throughout their lifecycle and have opted for facilities that meet the environmental and safety standards set out in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. We strongly encourage more companies to follow their lead."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NOTE

 

[1] The MARCO POLO was bought at auction for around £2m by offshore company Highseas Ltd. After the sale, it was allowed to leave UK waters on the condition it would be used for further trading. HighSeas Ltd’s director Rishi Aggarwal said the ship would be used as a floating hotel in Dubai. However, two months after the change of ownership, the vessel was sold as scrap for around £4m. The MAGELLAN was bought by Greek shipowner Marios Iliopoulos through his ferry company Seajets. After departing from the UK, it stopped briefly in Oman before reaching the Indian shipbreaking beach. Ship owners often hide their true scrapping intentions from authorities in order to get permission to leave European ports. They typically provide fraudulent accounts of repair work or further operational use in order to circumvent international waste laws.

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2020

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

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 630 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were sold to the scrap yards in 2020. Of these vessels, 446 large tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships were broken down on three beaches in South Asia, amounting to near 90% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.

 

Ships are considered hazardous waste under international environmental law as they contain many toxic materials and substances within their structures, and onboard as residues. These toxics include, amongst others, cadmium, lead batteries, asbestos, mercury, ozone depleting substances, PAHs, and residue oils, which all need to be managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Their export from developed to developing countries is banned by UNEP’s Basel Convention.

 

On the beaches of Alang in India, Chattogram in Bangladesh, and Gadani in Pakistan, where near 90% of the global world tonnage was scrapped last year, the negative consequences of shipbreaking are real and felt by many. Workers – often exploited migrants, some of them children – are exposed to immense risks. They are killed or seriously injured by fires and falling steel plates, and sickened by exposure to toxic fumes and substances. Coastal biomes, and the local communities depending on them, are devastated by toxic spills and air pollution due to the lack of infrastructure to contain, properly manage and dispose of the many hazardous materials embedded in the ships. 

 

"It is a scandal that laws and standards aimed at protecting people and the environment are ignored when scrapping the near totality of the global fleet. Governments, the clients, financiers and insurers of shipping, as well as the employees of shipping, need to take a much stronger stance against this exploitation of vulnerable communities and fragile ecosystems."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Last year, at least 10 workers lost their lives when breaking apart vessels in Bangladesh. At least another 14 were severely injured. Despite repeated attempts to obtain official statistics, no information on accidents at the Indian and Pakistani yards has been made available. The sector suffers from a serious lack of transparency, and it is expected that many accidents go unreported. Many more workers suffer from cancers and other occupational diseases. The detention of BBC reporters and confiscation of footage from France 2 journalists by local officers from the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), which controls the port in Alang, reveals how the industry seeks to thwart public scrutiny of the deplorable conditions at the yards.

 


DUMPERS 2020 – Worst practices

 

Greece tops the list of country dumper in 2020. Greek owners sold 48 ships for scrapping in South Asia, most of which were beached in Bangladesh and Pakistan. 

 

Whilst some EU Member States are increasingly cracking down on environmental crime, almost a quarter of the tonnage broken in South Asia was owned by European shipping companies. Greece in particular has systematically closed its eyes to the deplorable end-of-life track record of its shipping industry,” says Jenssen.

 

The ‘worst corporate dumper’ prize goes to South Korean company Polaris Shipping. Under pressure following serious incidents on the Stellar Daisy, which sank in the Atlantic with the loss of 22 lives in 2017, and on the Stellar Banner, which was scuttled off the coast of Brazil in June, Polaris Shipping scrapped 11 of its carriers in 2020.  All units were beached in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Four major accidents, causing the death of one worker, occurred during the dismantling of Polaris’ vessels in Chattogram. On 22 June, during an illegal night shift at Jumuna Ship Breakers yard, Abdul Halim was hit by an iron piece in the stomach on the ship Stellar Knight. On 1 July, Rohul fell and broke five ribs while dismantling the Stellar Iris at KSB Steels yard. On the same day, Mozaffor fell from the Stellar Journey at RA Shipbreaking yard. Finally, on 25 December, Md Ibrahim was killed when hit by a large iron piece while breaking the Stellar Hermes at Kabir Steel’s Khawja yard. According to shipping media Splash, middleman scrap-dealer GMS is linked to several of Polaris’ recent demolition sales.

 

Another South Korean company, Sinokor, is runner-up for worst corporate practice. Sinokor sold four vessels for scrapping in Bangladesh last year. On 24 March, two brothers, Shumon Das and Nironjon Das, died due to toxic gas inhalation while working in the engine room of the tanker West Energy at Kabir Steel’s Khawja shipbreaking yard. Sumon and Nironjon left five children behind. In the same accident, two other workers, Kawser and Habib, were also exposed to the toxic gas and fell sick.

 

Brazilian state-owned company Petrobras comes third for worst corporate practice. Three years have passed since civil society organisations and trade unions urged the Brazilian government to stop the dumping of toxic ships on South Asian beaches. Yet, oil giant Petrobras dumped nine of its old tankers in South Asia last year alone. The units were auctioned off to unscrupulous scrap-dealers, also known as cash buyers. 

 

“To avoid such deplorable practices in the future and ensure the enforcement of international legislation on hazardous waste exports, Brazilian authorities need to introduce stricter requirements for the public auctions of Petrobras’ end-of-life vessels,” says Nicola Mulinaris, Communication and Policy Officer at the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

 

Berge Bulk, Costamare, Eurobulk, Evergreen, K-Line, Maersk and Swire & Sons are other well-known shipping companies that dumped their toxic ships on South Asian beaches in 2020.


In October, a worker lost his life during the scrapping of two Transocean’s rigs at Isiksan, a Turkish ship recycling yard included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities. The accident is a strong reminder of the challenges related to both containment and safety when dismantling offshore units. More than half of the oil and gas units scrapped last year ended up on the beaches of South Asia, including units owned by Noble Corporation, Tidewater and Valaris, as well as top dumper Petrobras. The mercury-laden FSO tanker JNAT was, on the other hand, banned from entering Bangladesh and India after NGOs called upon authorities to halt the import. 

 

Environmental and labour laws that regulate ship recycling exist, but they are ignored and easily circumvented by ship owners, often with the aid of cash buyers. These pay the highest price for end-of-life vessels and typically re-name, re-register and re-flag the vessels on their last voyage to the beaching yards. Almost half of the ships sold to South Asia in 2020 changed flag to one of the black-listed flags Comoros, Palau and St Kitts & Nevis just weeks before hitting the beach. At least 14 of these flag changes enabled ship owners to circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. [1]

"Whist European shipping companies own 40% of the world fleet, only 5% of end-of-life ships were registered under an EU/EFTA flag in 2020. Flags known for their poor implementation of maritime law have always been particularly popular at end-of-life. Ship owners hiding behind anonymous post box companies set up by cash buyers and backed by blacklisted flag registries is a reality that begs for the introduction and enforcement of measures that effectively hold the real beneficial owners of the vessels responsible."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In a landmark ruling last year, a Norwegian court sentenced ship owner Georg Eide to six months unconditional imprisonment for having assisted cash buyer Wirana in an attempt to export the Tide Carrier to Pakistan for scrapping. Several other cases of illicit traffic are under investigation: unravelling the murky practices of shipbreaking, they highlight the importance of conducting due diligence when choosing business partners.

 

Due to the pandemic, the cruise shipping sector has been forced to downsize, with many ship owners, such as Carnival Corporation and Pullmantur, taking steps to reduce operating expenses, including the retirement of relatively young vessels. Carnival Corporation receives the 2020 award for best ship recycling practice. Leading by example, the American cruise shipping giant sets a standard the remaining of the cruise and shipping sector can follow.

"Carnival Corporation is honoured to receive this award. Our highest responsibility and top priorities are to be in compliance everywhere we operate in the world, to protect the environment and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, the people in the communities we visit and our shipboard and shoreside employees. This commitment holds true for every stage of the life and retirement cycle for each of our ships."
Carnival Corporation

Clean and safe solutions are already available. Less than a million Light Displacement Tonnes (LDT) were recorded recycled in EU-approved facilities in 2020, which represent a minor fraction of what these yards are able to handle. 

"We applaud companies, such as Carnival Corporation, that have a responsible policy for the recycling of their vessels ‘off the beach’. Now, we call upon policy makers to adopt effective measures, such as a return-scheme for ships, that will incentivise more owners to recycle their assets in a sustainable manner."
Nicola Mulinaris - Communication and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the data visualization of 2020 shipbreaking records, click here. *

For the full Excel dataset of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2020, 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 10 February 2021 - Teekay Corporation informed us that five ships (i.e. Aegean Leader, Petrojarl Cidade de Rio das Ostras, Navion Bergen, Navion Hispania and Apollo Spirit) have been incorrectly attributed to the company in our 2020 shipbreaking records. The documentation provided by Teekay Corporation shows that the company is not linked to any end-of-life sale in 2020. The Platform has therefore rectified the data concerning the beneficial ownership of these vessels. Whilst the Aegean Leader results to be linked to Japanese company NYK, the other four vessels result to be linked to Altera Infrastructure . Altera Infrastructure was formerly known as Teekay Offshore, from which Teekay Corporation divested its interest on April 30 2019.

 

NOTE

 

[1] The EU Ship Recycling Regulation became applicable on 30 December 2018. According to the Regulation, EU-flagged vessels have to be recycled in one of the currently 43 approved facilities around the world included in the EU list. EU-approved ship recycling facilities must comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The EU List is the first of its kind; is the only list of facilities that have been independently audited; and provides an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling. Any ship owner that wants to opt for safe and clean ship recycling can simply choose one of the facilities included on the List. No beaching yard is approved by the EU. 

 

Recent audits by the European Commission in Alang and media reports continue to flag serious concerns related to pollution of the intertidal area; absence of medical facilities; breaches of labour rights and lack of capacity to safely manage several hazardous waste streams, including mercury and radioactive contaminated materials that are typically found on offshore oil and gas units. As highlighted by several NGOs and legal experts at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a possible inclusion of Indian yards on the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities would further violate international waste legislation, and be in clear contradiction with the EU's new strategic economic and environmental policy initiatives embedded in the Green Deal.

 

Alang, India - © Amit Dave - Sep 2020
Dirty scrapping of FSO at claimed 'green' Leela yard in Alang, India - © Amit Dave - Sep 2020
Chattogram, Bangladesh - © C.F. - Feb 2019
Petrobras' ship Neusa in Chattogram, Bangladesh - © NGO Shipbreaking Platform - Jan 2021

Platform News – Carnival Corporation commits to sustainable ship recycling

NGOs commend cruise shipping giant Carnival Corporation for its recent decision to support clean, safe and just ship recycling. The American ship owner has worked with the Platform’s member organisation Bellona Foundation and Dutch company Sea2Cradle for the development of a comprehensive ship recycling plan for two of its retired vessels.

 

The CARNIVAL FANTASY and the CARNIVAL INSPIRATION will be scrapped at yards Simsekler and Ege Celik, located in Turkey. Both recycling facilities meet the environmental and safety standards set out in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, which became applicable on 31 December 2018 and provides the only reliable auditing scheme for clean and safe recycling.

"Bellona Foundation welcomes Carnival Corporation's decision to responsibly recycle their retired ships in Turkey, and we applaud them for their commitment to responsible management throughout the lifecycle of their ships. Dismantling a cruise ship is complex, involving many components for reuse, recycling and waste for disposal. Carnival Corporation's commitment to recycling in a proper way to avoid pollution and to safeguard the environment shows leadership."
Sigurd Enge - Shipping & Arctic - Bellona Foundation

The scrapping operations will be closely monitored on the ground by ship recycling consultants Sea2Cradle. With over twenty years of experience in sustainable ship recycling, they will ensure that all health, safety and environmental measures are followed.

 

Carnival Corporation is not the only cruise company that has been forced to downsize its fleet. The entire cruise sector is severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many ship owners taking steps to reduce operating expenses, including the retirement of relatively young ships. According to shipping databases, at least five cruises have already been sent for scrapping in the last seven months. In June, Carnival’s subsidiary Costa sold the COSTA VICTORIA to Genova Industrie Navali-controlled San Giorgio del Porto, which will now likely take care of pre-recycling operations at a yard in Piombino, Italy. Last month, Pullmantur sent MONARCH and SOVEREIGN cruises for scrapping in Turkey. Rumours are that German TUI’s MARELLA CELEBRATION might also head soon towards the breakers. In 2018, its sister ship MARELLA SPIRIT was illegally exported  from Greek territorial waters for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia in violation of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation.

 

"Carnival Corporation’s decision shows that it is possible to scrap ships off the beach. Ship owners have a duty of care with regards to the safe management of their end-of-life fleet, and we strongly advise other owners to follow Carnival’s example to avoid putting workers, the environment and their own company at risk. Opting for a facility that is on the EU List is the best safeguard a concerned owner can take."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

NOTE

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS under the spotlight

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Toxic Tide – 2021 Shipbreaking Records

THE TOXIC TIDE

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Explore our Data Visualisation and read our Press Release.

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 


DUMPERS 2019 – Worst practices

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

NOTES

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Press Release – NGOs win FPSO North Sea Producer case

Bangladesh Court denounces illegalities and lack of transparency in shipbreaking sector

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It is not the first time that journalists visiting Indian shipbreaking yards unannounced and undercover document a reality that starkly contrasts with the industry efforts to greenwash beaching. In 2016, DanWatch revealed dire conditions at a yard Maersk, and ClassNK, had approved. Recently, also French TV brought back a similar account of Alang.

 

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

 

NOTES

 

[1] The YETAGUN operated in a gas field in Myanmar for years. Mercury is a naturally occurring element present in virtually all oil and gas fields. Concentrations are especially high in the South American and East Asian region. Mercury can contaminate the structure of offshore units and ballast waters.

 

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