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



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

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

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


Press Release – NGOs warn that Hong Kong Convention will fail to ensure sustainable ship recycling

Treaty to continue toxic business-as-usual on the 
beaches of South Asia while undermining efforts for reform


The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships [1] will enter into force in June 2025 as major flag state Liberia and the Government of Bangladesh, heavily pushed by Japan and Norway, have now ratified the Convention fourteen years after its adoption. NGOs warn, however, that its requirements fall short of ensuring ethical, safe and environmentally sound ship recycling and risk undermining existing laws and efforts to reform the sector’s dangerous and polluting practices.

"This international convention rubberstamps shipbreaking on tidal mudflats and ignores labour rights and international rules for hazardous waste management. It will only serve the interests of shipping companies to avoid paying the true cost of sustainable and ethical recycling and undercut efforts to level the playing field for responsible ship recyclers to compete. As it stands, the Hong Kong Convention undermines the overall credibility of not only its own stated objectives, but also that of the IMO [2]."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NGOs world-wide [3], the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights, the Centre for International Environmental Law and the European Parliament [4] have all exposed the fatal weakness of the Hong Kong Convention’s standards and enforcement mechanisms. Furthermore, the majority of the 191 countries party to the UNEP Basel Convention, which controls the global trade of hazardous wastes, including end-of-life ships, and bans the export of toxic wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries, found that the Hong Kong Convention fails to provide an equivalent level of control to the Basel Convention as it does not prevent the dumping of toxic ships in developing countries [5].


With its failure to outline robust environmental and social standards for the sound management of the many toxic substances contained in end-of-life ships, the Hong Kong Convention falls short of the Basel Convention and the more recent EU Ship Recycling Regulation [6]. It sets no requirements, beyond compliance with national rules for the management of hazardous wastes downstream. It endorses beaching, a practice long associated with pollution and health hazards for both workers and local communities. It also lacks provisions to protect workers engaged in shipbreaking operations, who often face precarious work environments, lack of protective equipment and limited access to medical facilities. 


Many beaching yards boast that they already comply with the Hong Kong Convention [7], but independent audits of these facilities by the European Commission have identified several serious problems that disqualify them from the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities [8]. Investigative journalists from BBC, French TV, DanWatch and Dutch program Zembla have also uncovered unacceptable conditions at these yards. 

"The entry-into-force of the flawed Hong Kong Convention is not a time for celebration, but it will allow for the reopening of the text. We will be calling for changes so that it meets expectations of environmental justice, labour rights and circular economy objectives, and calling on the European Union and responsible ship owners to ensure that the shipping sector does not get away with green-washing the current deplorable practices that would never be allowed in their home countries."
Rizwana Hasan - Director - Bangladesh Environmental Law Association (BELA)

Another major flaw inherent in the Hong Kong Convention is that the responsibility for its enforcement is only put on the end-of-life vessel’s flag state and the recycling state. In reality this means that grey- and black-listed end-of-life flag states such as Comoros, St Kitts and Nevis and Palau, notorious for their poor implementation of international maritime law and particularly popular for last voyages to the South Asian beaches, along with local authorities in South Asia which have done little to prevent the death of more than 430 workers since 2009, will be in charge of enforcement. They will be responsible without any independent control mechanisms in place and despite the fact that most end-of-life vessels are owned by European, East Asian and North American companies that possess more rigorous safeguards for proper waste management and human rights in their home territories.


Beaching yards in India and Bangladesh that already claim they comply with the Hong Kong Convention are backed by ship owners keen to maintain a cheap disposal route for their end-of-life vessels where the costs related to managing hazardous materials safely, including residue oils, asbestos and mercury, are not factored in. Instead the costs are born by workers, local communities and sensitive coastal environments. The harms caused include toxic exposure and loss of lives, limbs, livelihoods and biodiversity. Ship owners pay neither to prevent this harm in the first place, nor to compensate for or mitigate it. Externalising costs in this manner renders disposal of end-of-life ships artificially cheap resulting also in less economic incentive to design out toxic materials in the first place. 

"This is not a proud moment for IMO. It has been a fourteen years’ wait for a convention that does not solve the problems it was supposed to address. The Hong Kong Convention is already adopted by the sub-standard yards on the beaches in India and Bangladesh, so in practice, there will be no change, just ‘bad business as usual’. Eyes are now on the Basel Convention and the EU’s Ship Recycling Regulation. Both are important blueprints for the necessary reform of the IMO’s Hong Kong Convention. Europe in particular, with its large fleet, needs to continue to take the lead and support technology and incentives to make sure new alternative and competitive recycling facilities are established."
Sigurd Enge - Senior Advisor - Bellona Foundation
"It is imperative for the global community to recognise and address the loopholes that hamper the Hong Kong Convention, and assert the letter and intent of the Basel Convention which was to prevent the Global South from being the dumping ground of the rich and powerful industries and nations. The costs for sustainable ship recycling need to be internalised with the shipping sector, and urgent support to build capacity that meets industry best practice is necessary to manage the many vessels that will head for scrapping in the next years in a way that does not put workers, local communities and fragile ecosystems at risk."
Jim Puckett - Executive Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)



[1] Adopted in 2009, the Hong Kong Convention seeks to establish guidelines and rules to better regulate the scrapping of end-of-life vessels.


[2] Already the IMO is under harsh criticism for failing to on climate change. Transparency International also released a blasting report on critical governance flaws at the IMO.


[3] See NGO Shipbreaking Briefing Paper May 2009.


[4] The European Parliament called for “concrete regulatory action at EU level that moves beyond the regrettably weak remedies of the IMO” in its Resolution of 26 March 2009 on an EU strategy for better ship dismantling.


[5] At the Basel COP 10 meeting in 2011, there was no consensus that the Hong Kong Convention provides an equivalent level of control to that provided in the Basel Convention - see Basel Decision BC-10/17. Since then, the Basel Ban Amendment has entered into global force, reducing even further the equivalency between the two regimes which inevitably entails that the two legal instruments will co-exist.


[6] The European Union adopted the Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) in 2013. Whilst the Regulation brings forward the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention, it includes additional requirements related to downstream toxic waste management as well as labour rights. EU-flagged vessels above 500 GT must be recycled in safe and environmentally sound ship recycling facilities that are included on the European List of approved ship recycling facilities. The List was first established on 19 December 2016 and following on-site independent third party audits it is periodically updated to add additional compliant facilities, or, alternatively, to remove facilities which have ceased to comply.


[7] In the last years, there has been a proliferation of the so-called Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention, inspections conducted at yards on a business-to-business basis as yet another attempt by the industry to greenwash its dirty and dangerous practices. Facilities that lack infrastructure to contain pollution; lack protective equipment to prevent toxic exposure; have no hospitals to handle emergencies in the vicinity; and where systemic breaches of labour rights have been documented have been able to obtain so-called Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention.


[8] The findings of the EU audits include lack of infrastructure to contain pollutants; lack of capacity to manage several hazardous waste streams; breaches of labour rights; air, water and soil pollution levels higher than permitted thresholds; and lack of emergency response facilities. For more details see the audit reports.


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

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2022

Shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia continues to cause serious harm to workers and the environment despite plunge in number of ships scrapped


According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 443 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were sold for scrapping in 2022. Of these, 292 large tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships ended up for dirty and dangerous breaking on tidal beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.


Whilst the South Asian shipbreaking yards experienced the lowest turnover in over a decade, with a significant drop in terms of the number of ships scrapped, they remained the preferred destination for end-of-life vessels, dismantling 80% of the global end-of-life gross tonnage. The reasons for the plunge in the number of vessels scrapped in 2022 are multiple, with high ocean freight rates that made it profitable to continue operating older vessels and banks’ shortages in providing credits to companies for the purchase of end-of-life assets identified as the main drivers.

"Companies have a duty to eliminate the negative impacts that their commercial decisions have on the environment and people. End-of-life vessels are hazardous waste, and taking them apart on tidal beaches is by far the worst industrial practice."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In South Asia, workers – often exploited migrants – are exposed to immense risks. Dangerous working conditions, including fires and falling steel plates, kill or seriously injure numerous workers. Many more are sickened by exposure to toxic fumes and substances that can be found within the ships’ structures. 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 hazardous materials.


In 2022, at least 10 workers lost their lives and 33 workers suffered injuries when breaking apart vessels on the beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh. Local sources also reported three deaths in Alang, India, and three injuries in Gadani, Pakistan. Some of these accidents took place onboard vessels owned by well-known shipping companies, such as Berge Bulk, Sinokor and Winson Oil.

DUMPERS 2022 – Worst practices


The 2022 worst country dumper was China. Chinese owners sold 28 ships for scrapping in South Asia, most of which were beached in Bangladesh. Russia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Greece follow with more than a dozen ships beached each.


Major dry bulk carrier Berge Bulk, which has figured amongst the worst corporate dumpers several years in a row, reached the top in 2022. The company scrapped four carriers in Bangladesh and India, reaching a total of 24 vessels beached in the last ten years. Berge Bulk’s scrapping practices stand in evident contrast with the company’s declared commitment to sustainability and safety. According to local sources, three separate accidents, causing injuries to three workers, occurred during the cutting of the BERGE KANGCHENJUNGA at Ferdous Steel yard in Bangladesh. On 3 March, Amirul broke his leg after a fall. On 27 April, an iron piece suddenly hit Sedan Das on his spine. On 2 August, Motin suffered burn injuries due to a fire. Shipping sources link cash buyer GMS to the sale of the BERGE KANGCHENJUNGA, re-named JENGA prior beaching.


Brazilian state-owned company Petrobras comes second for worst corporate practice. More than five years have passed since civil society organisations and trade unions urged the Brazilian government to stop the dumping of toxic end-of-life ships in the Global South. Yet, oil giant Petrobras sold another four of its old tankers and two of its old floating platforms for dismantling on South Asian beaches last year, reaching a total of 34 vessels beached in the last decade. The units were auctioned off to scrap dealers. According to shipping sources, at least three of the units were sold to cash buyer Best Oasis.

"In order to ensure clean and safe ship recycling off the beach, it is time for Brazil to introduce stricter requirements for the public auctions of end-of-life vessels and offshore units, and to properly enforce international legislation on hazardous waste exports. This continuous toxic dumping perpetrated by Petrobras and the scandal of the former aircraft carrier SÃO PAULO should have already served as a wake-up call."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

BW Offshore is another well-known company that dumped its toxic units on the beach last year. On 21 April, a worker lost his life at the Indian yard Priya Blue Industries, where BW Offshore’s Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) CIDADE DE SÃO VICENTE was being cut. Assisted by Arctic Shipbrokers, Grieg Green and cash buyer Best Oasis, the deal was branded as a green sale.


Back in January 2019, Norwegian pension fund KLP had blacklisted Nordic American Tankers (NAT), a Bermuda-registered company controlled from Norway by Herbjørn Hanson, following the sale of several tankers for dirty and dangerous scrapping at South Asian beaching yards. Yet, NAT seems not to have improved its policy since, with two additional NAT vessels ending up on the beaches of India and Pakistan last year.

Environmental and labour laws that regulate ship recycling exist, but they are ignored and easily circumvented by ship owners, often with the aid of scrap dealers known as 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. More than half of the ships sold to South Asia in 2022 changed flag to one of the grey- and black-listed flags of Cameroon, Comoros, Palau, St Kitts & Nevis and Tanzania, often just weeks before hitting the beach. At least eight of these flag changes enabled ship owners to circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. Seven of these units, including one owned by Italian Finbeta SpA, ended up on a beach instead of being recycled in an EU-approved facility as the Regulation requires.

"Existing laws are way too easy for ship owners to circumvent. The decisions to scrap are taken in offices in Hamburg, Athens, Antwerp, Copenhagen and other shipping hubs. This reality begs for the introduction and enforcement of measures that effectively hold the real beneficial owners of the vessels responsible in their own jurisdictions, regardless of the flags used and ports of departure for scrapping."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In 2022, a total of 49 ships were dismantled in Aliağa, Turkey, a site where currently six EU-approved ship recycling yards are located. Civil society organisations have raised concerns over the ship recycling operations in the region and massively mobilised over the summer to stop the import of the toxic-laden aircraft carrier SÃO PAULO. They flag serious breaches of national laws related to environmental permits, pollution, occupational health and safety and waste management in the sector. Two facilities, Şimşekler and Işıksan, were removed from the EU List in 2022 due to their failure to comply with the requirements set in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. Furthermore, recently published audit reports of two other yards reveal several problems.

"Now, given the awareness of the violations, our focus will be on enhancing and strengthening environmental standards and occupational health and safety practices so that the ship recycling sector fully respects workers, local communities and the environment."
Asli Odman - Academic and Volunteer - Istanbul Health and Safety Labour Watch

Dangerous and dirty practices are affecting also countries that rarely make ship recycling headlines. In Canada, the illegal breaking of barges and asbestos-laden vessels is negatively affecting the local residents and the indigenous people of Baynes Sound. On the opposite side of the Atlantic, the demolition of dozens of toxic ships is polluting the shores of Ghana.

"We urge Canadian and Ghanaian authorities to halt immediately these substandard practices, and take example from the existing EU legislation on ship recycling when developing new sets of national rules."
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - 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 the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions provide opportunities to transform the ship recycling sector. Already, forward-looking governments are developing policies to increase access to scrap steel for green steel production, coupling that with measures to encourage the development of sustainable ship recycling capacity. For instance, the United Arab Emirates have adopted a “no-beaching” rule and aim to attract vessels for dismantling in dry docks. The European Union’s Green Deal is, on its side, pushing major steel companies to explore ways of integrating ship recycling in their production line.

"A just transition in the ship recycling sector is possible. Clean and safe solutions are already available, and innovations ranging from robotics to water-jet cutting technologies will not only ensure safer practices but also render sustainable ship recycling more cost-effective. We call upon ship owners, especially the large containership companies that will have many vessels to scrap in 2023, to support the shift away from the beaching yards."
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 2022 shipbreaking records, click here. *

For the full Excel dataset of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2022, 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.


Press Release – Brazil set to violate three international environmental treaties in sinking PCB-laden aircraft carrier in the Atlantic

Environmentalists denounce Brazilian Navy for 'criminal negligence'


As feared by the coalition of environmental and labour rights NGOs following the fate of the former aircraft carrier SÃO PAULO, the Brazilian Navy has seized the massive 265-meter-long ship and announced the intention to sink it in the Atlantic, instead of allowing it to be recycled as initially planned just a few months ago when it was sold to a Turkish breaking yard.  The announcement that the vessel is to be sunk comes after the ship was sent back to Brazil in accordance with the terms of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal by the Turkish government, which in August 2022 withdrew its consent to import the vessel for recycling due to a series of illegalities. Once the ship returned to Brazil, the Brazilian Navy, however, inexplicably refused to allow it to dock safely in a Naval base. This refusal forced the owners of the vessel to tow it in circles off the coast of the Brazilian State of Pernambuco for three months seeking permission to berth it.


According to the NGOs, the Navy breached Basel rules by refusing to allow the vessel to safely dock in Brazil and now, with its move to sink the ship into the ocean, is likewise set to violate the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter’s London Protocol 1996, as well as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The civil society coalition also expressed serious doubts that the ship is in danger of foundering and causing damage to the Brazilian coast, as claimed by the Navy. No evidence has been produced or published on government websites that there is any concern with respect to the hull except for the need for minor repairs.

"Based on the evidence at hand, the Brazilian Navy should be condemned for gross negligence. If they proceed with dumping the very toxic vessel into the wilderness of the Atlantic Ocean, they will violate the terms of three international environmental treaties and do so for no good reason. We call on President Lula as the commander-in-chief to immediately halt the dangerous sinking plan."
Jim Puckett - Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)

While the environmental harm from dumping the many tons of asbestos on board the ship in the marine environment is unknown, based on the estimates of the sister ship of the SÃO PAULO -- the CLEMENCEAU, the ship is believed to contain more than 300 metric tonnes of PCB-laden materials in concentrations over 50ppm. PCBs are an extremely harmful contaminant of the marine environment due to their chronic toxicity and the capacity of the chemical to biomagnify its concentrations as it moves up the marine food chain.  


Under the terms of the Stockholm Convention, POPs such as PCBs must be disposed of in such a way that the POP content is destroyed or irreversibly transformed, so they no longer exhibit the characteristics of POPs. Methods for the safe disposal of POPs have been developed and listed  by the Stockholm and Basel Conventions, and ocean disposal is not an allowed method.  Furthermore, the London Protocol prohibits the disposal of ships at sea without first thoroughly cleaning them of hazardous materials such as PCBs. 


The early claim by Brazil and the ship owner that the SÃO PAULO did not contain PCBs, while the sister ship CLEMENCEAU clearly did, has never been substantiated in any way and was but one of the suspicious claims made in the Inventory of Hazardous Materials performed by surveyors working for the Turkish buyer of the ship. On the contrary, evidence exists to suggest otherwise. When the CLEMENCEAU was surveyed in 2006 by Bureau Veritas, PCBs were found in the wiring and gaskets in high concentrations. The surveyors were alarmed enough to surmise that all the cabling and wiring in the ship was likely contaminated. The Bureau Veritas’ report stated:  “All cables (old or more recent, of any use) of the first type have a content greater than the regulation threshold, with some of them having very high content (for example, 23,350 mg/kg). 71% of the cable casings (old or more recent, of any use) of the second type have a content greater than the regulation threshold, with some having very high content (for example, 41,000 mg/kg). It is recommended that the electric cables be considered polluted by PCBs. Specific precautions are to be taken concerning cutting and handling.” 


From a YouTube video of what appears to be the decommissioning ceremony on board the ship in 2018, one can see a freeze frame of a central corridor.  Compare this to an archived photo of the CLEMENCEAU’s central corridor. It shows the same harnesses of cables in both ships. Further, the gaskets throughout the ship were also found to be contaminated with PCBs.  There has been no record of removal of the wiring or gasketry on board the SÃO PAULO since decommissioning.   

"We are certain the SÃO PAULO is loaded with asbestos and PCBs as it is normal for military ships of that vintage. Allowing the expected several hundred tons of PCBs to be dumped into the sea where they could leach into the water and be taken up by the marine food chain is unthinkable. We call on the new Brazilian government to reverse their collision course with the environment at once. "
Nicola Mulinaris - Senior Communication and Policy Advisor - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – Brazilian Navy suddenly seizes its old warship forcing it to sea

NGOs urgently call on President Lula to prevent Navy from sinking toxic ship in the Atlantic


The former Brazilian Aircraft Carrier named SÃO PAULO, laden with asbestos, PCBs and other toxic waste materials, was seized on Friday and forced out to sea by the Brazilian Navy, claiming in an official notice yesterday that the move had to be done as the vessel was supposedly in imminent danger of running aground or sinking off the Brazilian coast.  


Green groups that have been closely following the saga of the SÃO PAULO were shocked over this move and are not convinced by the Navy's sudden rationale that the ship posed an imminent danger.  They note that while it has been known for weeks that there are minor breaches in the hull in need of repair, the Navy itself refused for over three months to allow the vessel to return to one of its facilities for repair or survey.  The NGOs greatly fear that the Navy intends to never have the ship be returned to a port, never be re-examined for its quantity of hazardous wastes onboard, toxicity and suspected radioactivity, and will instead use an excuse of a small leak in the ship’s structure to force its sinking in the Atlantic Ocean. 

"It is now clear that the Navy does not want to receive any further scrutiny it would surely receive by returning home the SÃO PAULO, and it looks like they will now try to sink it using a false excuse -- out of sight, out of mind. The Navy has already taken the law into its own hands and is poised now to perpetrate a major environmental crime at sea unless President Lula as commander-in-chief intervenes."
Jim Puckett - Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)

BAN is citing the illegal seizure of a privately owned ship, as well as defiance of the Basel Convention. The latter requires the aircraft carrier to be safely returned to Brazil with Brazilian assistance, which the Navy has refused for three months. The London Protocol further forbids the intentional sinking of vessels unless all efforts have been first made to rid the ships of toxic waste residual materials such as heavy metals, asbestos and PCBs.    


In a meeting held on 29 December, a Navy representative already alluded  to a possible contingency action of sinking the ship.  At that meeting, the issue of the small leak in the SÃO PAULO’s hull was discussed and it was concluded that the ship was not in imminent danger of sinking but should still be returned to a Brazilian port to undergo repairs prior to being put out to bid again for recycling. Following that meeting and a few weeks after the Lula Administration was installed, the coalition of NGOs wrote a letter to the new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and to the director of IBAMA, the Brazilian Agency responsible for fulfilling Brazil's legal obligations under international law. The NGOs also issued a press release calling for the urgent safe docking of the vessel, fearing that it would indeed be abandoned by the Turkish owners. Within 24 hours of that press release, the Brazilian Navy, citing imminent hazard to the Brazilian population and environment inexplicably seized the vessel and seemingly forced a commercial tow ship to take it out to sea. 


In addition to the economic loss of a vast quantity of secondary steel the SÃO PAULO contains, a forced sinking by the Brazilian government would result in hundreds of tonnes of asbestos, toxic and persistent PCBs, heavy metal-laden paints and possible radioactive materials to be released into the marine environment in violation of international law (London Protocol) [1].


"We call on President Lula as the commander-in-chief of the Brazilian Navy to intervene immediately and give orders to bring the SÃO PAULO back into Rio De Janeiro to be received at the same Navy dock from which it left or find a suitable recycling destination. Intentionally sinking this toxic aircraft carrier would equate to a state-sponsored environmental crime. "
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director & Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



[1] Studies conducted at a US sinking site revealed toxic PCB leaching from a sunken aircraft carrier. According to the data, the leaching occurred at more than twice the US Navy and EPA’s pre-sinking modelled expectations. Leaching PCBs from the sunken vessel were found to be taken up by fish at the reef site, with an increase of concentrations in fish samples of 1,446% on average from pre-sinking to post- sinking.. As PCBs bioaccumulate in organisms and biomagnify in the food chain, they create health risks to organisms of all kinds. Due to PCB’s properties of persistence and toxicity, many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to PCBs. See BAN's report.


For more information:


Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, e-mail:, Phone: +1 206-354-0391

Ingvild Jenssen, NGO Shipbreaking Platform, e-mail:, Phone: +32 (0)260.94.419



Press Release – Brazil must allow its own toxic aircraft carrier to dock

NGOs demand urgent action of Lula administration as ship needs repair and safe harbour


Three months after its return to Brazil following Turkey’s rejection to scrap it, the toxic aircraft carrier SÃO PAULO continues to be towed in circles off the coast of Pernambuco state, Brazil. The Brazilian Environment Agency (IBAMA) and Brazilian Navy have so far failed to provide the vessel with a safe mooring place despite a Salvage Master inspector having declared the ship is taking on water and needs repair. Left to drift twelve to sixteen nautical miles from land, burning fuel and resources, the new owners, MSK Maritime Services & Trading LTD, gave the Brazilian government a twelve-hour warning to allow the ship into port or they would immediately abandon it. Though this threat was met with a court injunction prohibiting such an action, NGOs say that the Brazilian government is to blame, and now must move with extreme urgency to resolve this matter.


In a letter to the new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the director of IBAMA, the coalition of international and national NGOs that has repeatedly raised the alarm is therefore now urging the new Brazilian administration to immediately allow the ship to dock at a Brazilian Naval facility so that it can undergo repairs and subsequently be carefully surveyed for all of the hazardous materials on board.

"Allowing the SÃO PAULO to continue its infinite loop off the coast of Brazil is a total dereliction of duty by the Brazilian Navy, IBAMA, and the Brazilian government as a whole. As it is their obligation under Article 8 of the Basel Convention, they must allow this vessel into port with haste to begin the necessary repairs and inspections and finally prepare the ship for its proper and safe recycling."
Jim Puckett - Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)

In their letter, the coalition laid out the requirements for proper and safe recycling of the vessel, which upon the decision to scrap it becamehazardous waste under the Basel Convention.  The groups reiterated the need for a full, independent, and transparent inventory of the hazardous materials (IHM) found onboard the ship, especially the asbestos, heavy metal-laden paints, PCBs, and the possible presence of radioactive isotopes. They also stated that the ship should not return to Aliaga, Turkey, where it was originally destined, following oposition by local communities and authorities due to the large amounts of hazardous materials onboard and concerns that these will not be managed in a safe manner, putting workers’and community health at risk. The NGOs also warned the government that the ship should not be scuttled or sunk to become an “artificial reef” or any other form of deliberate sinking, which the Brazilian Navy shockingly discussed as a possibility in a December 29 inter-agency meeting.

"What we are witnessing with the SÃO PAULO is gross negligence on the part of Brazil. We urge the new Lula administration to take immediate action to ensure that the aircraft carrier does not cause harm to the coastal environment in Brazil and finally is recycled in line with the best available practice."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director & Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform


For more information:


Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, e-mail:, Phone: +1 206-354-0391

NGO Shipbreaking Platform, e-mail:, Phone: +32 (0)260.94.419



Press Release – Polluting shipbreaking practices threaten Ghanian shores

In light of the recent infrastructure developments taking place at its main ports of Tema and Takoradi, Ghana is aiming to become the main integrated maritime hub of the west African subregion. Yet, certain unregulated practices, such as the demolition of end-of -life vessels, still represent a threat for the ecosystem and the health of the quarter of the country's population that lives along the coast. 


Due to the weak enforcement of environmental legislation, low labour costs and occupational safety standards, and the absence of a legal framework covering the recycling of obsolete vessels, dozens of ships have been arbitrarily dumped on Ghanian shores in the last years. Evans Ago Tetteh, PhD Adjunct Lecturer at the Regional Maritime University in Accra, recently reported on the present situation of ship demolition in Ghana, and provided evidence on the environmental harm caused on the beaches of Kpone by the spillage of hazardous substances, such as marine diesel oil. Some of the toxic vessels beached in Ghana have European ties. It is the case of the refrigerated cargo ship NAFTILOS, which was owned by Greek company Fairport Shipping Ltd and which maritime databases still list as laid-up. 

"Ship demolition is causing marine pollution in Kpone and the surrounding towns. Because of the marine oils released into the sea, the fish stock is being depleted, making local fishermen poorer. "
Evans Ago Tetteh - PhD Adjunct Lecturer - Regional Maritime University of Accra


Shipbreaking yards are granted licences by the Ghana Maritime Authority and permits by the Ghana Port and Harbours Authority, but neither entity follows through on the process to ensure that the scrapping process is conducted in an environmentally sound manner. To date, the Ghana Shipping Act 2003 (Act 645), the Ghana Maritime Pollution Act (Act 932), the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Act 490) and the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control Management Act 2016 (Act 917) are the only laws designed to regulate the ship recycling business, without any sector-specific rules. 


In recent years, the number of steel companies in Ghana has increased, particularly near the Tema Kpone industrial zone, as well as the country’s thirst for steel scrap. In light of this new demand for raw materials, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling upon the government of Ghana to develop new legislation tailored to regulate ship recycling activities in line with European standards, and to set up a clean and safe industry with adequate downstream waste management facilities. The beaches are not a suitable place for the breaking of toxic vessels.