Press Release – Norwegian ship owner sentenced to prison

Georg Eide convicted for having aided cash buyer in attempt to illegally export toxic ship

 

Last Friday, the Sunnhordland District Court in Norway sentenced ship owner Georg Eide to six months unconditional imprisonment for having assisted scrap dealer Wirana in an attempt to illegally export the TIDE CARRIER (aka EIDE CARRIER and HARRIER) to Pakistan for scrapping. The Court also ordered the confiscation of criminal dividends of NOK 2 million from Eide Marine Eidendom AS.

 

After a decade in lay-up in Norway, the TIDE CARRIER was sold to one of the most well-known cash buyers, Wirana. The intent was to scrap the ship on the beach of Gadani in Pakistan. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, together with its member organisation Bellona, tipped the police about the imminent illegal export in February 2017. The vessel was arrested upon finding onboard a “last voyage for breaking in Pakistan insurance” issued by Skuld Maritime Agency and two certificates issued on the same day by Marine Warranty Surveyor Aqualis Offshore - one for a voyage with the purpose of refurbishment work in Dubai and one for a last voyage to the scrap yards in Pakistan [1].

"Eide has been charged with complicity in violation of international waste law. The judgement acts as a stark warning that dodgy deals with cash buyers aimed at scrapping vessels on South Asian beaches, where there is no capacity and infrastructure to recycle and dispose of hazardous wastes in a safe and environmentally sound manner, are a serious crime. It also cautions that due diligence is a must for not only ship owners, but also insurers and Marine Warranty Surveyors, to avoid any business relationship with companies that have terrible track records."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Waste exports are strictly regulated in Norwegian, European and international law. The purpose is to protect developing countries from the dumping of hazardous wastes and the harm caused to workers, surrounding communities and the environment when toxics are not treated in an environmentally sound manner. Ships contain numerous toxic materials such as asbestos, heavy metals in paints and residue oils. Last year, the Basel Convention Ban Amendment entered into global force, banning the export of hazardous wastes, including end-of-life ships, from OECD to non OECD countries. The EU transposed the Ban Amendment into EU Law in 1997.

 

Waste trafficking linked to shipbreaking is being investigated by enforcement authorities in several EU Member States. It is also being looked at from a transnational point of view via Europol and Interpol. The Norwegian District Court emphasised an increasing need to counter environmental crime. Public Prosecutor Maria Bache Dahl and the judges stressed that there was no doubt that Eide had knowledge that the ship would be scrapped in Asia, and had also provided assistance in preparing for its last voyage [2].

"The scrapping of obsolete ships is a major international environmental problem. As a large maritime nation, it is important that the Norwegian authorities contribute to the fight against this problem. "
Maria Bache Dahl - Public Prosecutor - Økokrim

Eide may appeal the verdict.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] For more details on the case, see “The controversial case of the Harrier”.

 

[2] In 2019, separate action was taken against cash buyer Wirana who was fined NOK 7 million for having falsified papers to deceive Norwegian authorities about the ship's true destination and its seaworthiness to allow the vessel to leave Norway. Earlier this year, the public prosecutors’ office dismissed the charge and withdrew the penalty charge notice issued to MWS Aqualis Offshore AS for undisclosed reasons.

 

Press Release – Prosecutor launches investigation after Icelandic journalists shed light on illegal export of toxic ships to India

Cash buyer GMS once again under the spotlight

 

Icelandic program Kveikur released yesterday an investigation on the murky sale of two ships owned by Icelandic company Eimskip. In a documentary broadcasted by radio and television Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), Kveikur uncovers the illegal export of the container ships GODAFOSS and LAXFOSS to the Indian beach of Alang for dirty and dangerous scrapping. The Icelandic authorities have confirmed that the case has been brought to the public prosecutor for further investigation.

 

In an interview with RÚV, and in response to Kveikur’s documentary, Iceland’s Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson said: “First, I am shocked over what I saw. You feel sad and, at the same time, angry that a company in the West would exploit vulnerable people that have no choice but to work under such horrible conditions. Workers are at constant risk of accidents and even losing their life, and environmental issues are given zero attention. The owners of these companies must respond to whether this is, in their view, morally acceptable, and if this is in line with the environmental and social responsibility policy that they set for themselves. That is the question that I, and I believe many others, were left with.”

 

At the end of 2019, Eimskip sold, as part of its fleet renewal, the GODAFOSS and LAXFOSS, while simultaneously agreeing with the buyer to charter the ships back until the company’s new-buildings were delivered. What may have seemed like a sale for further operational use was actually a scrap deal – Eimskip’s counterpart to the sale was none other than GMS, one of the most well-known cash buyers of end-of-life ships. GMS is behind nearly half of the total tonnage that has been beached in the Indian subcontinent so far in 2020. The company has also been linked by media and civil society to several toxic trade scandals, at least two of which are currently being criminally investigated by enforcement authorities in the UK. [1]

 

Eimskip denies any involvement in the decision to sell the ships for recycling and claims having been in the dark about their final destination.

"It is hard to believe Eimskip when they claim that they were unaware of the final destination of the vessels. Companies have a duty of care and responsibility to ensure that their operations follow environmental law, also within their supply-chain. Due diligence when selecting business partners is part and parcel of that responsibility."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The export of the two container vessels to South Asia was in clear breach of European waste laws, which prohibit the trade of hazardous waste, including end-of-life ships, from OECD countries to non-OECD countries. Both the GODAFOSS and LAXFOSS were in European waters when the decision to sell for scrap was taken. Before reaching the Indian beach of Alang, via Suez, they briefly stopped in Rotterdam and Athens respectively. At the time of the export of the ships, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform formally requested Icelandic, Dutch and Greek authorities to hold all the parties involved in the sale accountable for breaching EU waste legislation. 

 

Researchers and journalists that have recently visited the Indian shipbreaking yards, often unannounced and undercover, have documented a reality that starkly contrasts with the industry efforts to greenwash beaching. The BBC exposed the case, which sees again the involvement of cash buyer GMS, of five oil and gas units owned by Diamond Offshore. Two of the units ended up being broken in Alang under dire conditions before the remaining three were arrested in Scotland, as it was suspected that the buyers sought to illegally export them to South Asia. Dutch programme ZEMBLA brought back similar accounts of horrifying practices in Alang, revealing how workers unknowingly were exposed to highly toxic mercury fumes when torching apart an FSO owned by offshore company SBM. In 2019 alone, at least fourteen vessels were sold to beaching yards in breach of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The Icelandic case adds itself to several ongoing criminal investigations.

 

 

NOTE

 

[1] See North Sea Producer case and Diamond Offshore case. 

 

Press Release – NGOs call EU’s intent to export toxic ships to developing countries illegal and contrary to aims of Green Deal

The Basel Action Network (BAN), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Greenpeace, and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, leading organisations active in the pursuit of preventing the environmental injustice caused by the dumping of hazardous waste, warn that the European Union's legislation allowing the export of toxic ships to developing countries violates Member States’ obligations under the Basel Convention and is in contradiction with the EU's new strategic economic and environmental policy initiatives.

 

In a new report entitled Contradiction in Terms: European Union must align its ship exports with International Law and Green Deal Policies, the NGOs call upon the EU to take urgent action to reform both the Waste Shipment Regulation and the Ship Recycling Regulation to ensure they are legally consistent with the international Basel Convention. They note with concern that proposals have been made for the EU to enter into a special bilateral agreement with certain shipbreaking states (e.g. India) as a supposed legitimate means to circumvent the Basel Convention’s Ban Amendment, which entered into global force last December [1]. Bolstered by a new analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) [2], the report explains why that is not acceptable both from a legal standpoint and as a matter of policy. 

"Put simply, the EU procedure of filling out paperwork and permitting toxic ships to go to the beaches of South Asia for the purposes of their disposal/recycling can never be an equivalent level of control and protection as a rule that bans such export. Now that the Ban Amendment is in force, it is binding international law. Shipbreaking yards in developing countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can therefore not be placed on the EU’s list of approved ship recycling destinations. "
Jim Puckett - Executive Director - Basel Action Network (BAN)

In light of the new European Green Deal - and at a time when 1) EU waste law is being recast to ‘facilitate preparing for re-use and recycling of waste in the EU’ and ‘restrict exports of waste that have harmful environmental and health impacts in third countries; 2) the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan calls for ensuring that the EU does not export its waste challenges to third countries; and 3) the recently published Foresight 2020 report identifies the need for greater resilience in providing more green jobs in the EU - it seems especially incoherent for the EU to rely on faulty legal argumentation that would defeat the intent and purpose of the Ban Amendment while undermining the EU's strategic economic and environmental policy initiatives. 

"Such action will send a signal to the rest of the world that the EU is not serious about a responsible circular economy and international law. By allowing the breaking of European vessels in the Global South, Europe is not only exporting hazardous waste and threatening people’s health in developing countries, but also contradicting its own ambition to boost the domestic supply of secondary raw materials – as set out in its circular economy action plan. EU leaders must focus on reprocessing, reusing and recycling valuable materials, particularly steel, within Europe."
Stéphane Arditi - Circular Economy Policy Manager - European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

The NGOs call on the EU to seize the opportunity to boost safe and clean ship recycling in Europe, as well as to promote the design and building of toxic-free vessels and to push for ‘zero-emissions steel’ initiatives [3]. Such actions would enable Europe to offer proper recovery solutions for ships from all over the world.

"We fear that the EU is just fine with human rights, environmental treaties and a ‘green deal’ until it impacts the bottom line of powerful industrial interests. Instead of inventing exceptions to international law, we expect the EU to support its recycling sector and safeguard the environmental justice principles that it championed when supporting the Basel Ban Amendment - and now has put at the heart of its new Green Deal."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

NOTES

 

[1] The Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention, championed early on by the EU and now enshrined in international waste law, bans hazardous wastes of all kinds from being exported from developed to developing countries. The Basel Convention has already ruled that operational ships can be considered as hazardous wastes due to the many toxics embedded within their structure.  Yet, current EU law allows EU flagged vessels to be exported to any destination on an EU approved ship recycling facility list, regardless of whether it is a developing country or not.  

 

[2] The CIEL analysis explains that the Basel Convention does not allow reservations or exceptions, and only allows special separate agreements if they provide an "equivalent level of control."

 

[3] See Material Economics’ report Industrial Transformation 2050.

 

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

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 – 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. 

Press Release – Two fatal accidents at Indian yards under EU scrutiny

According to local media, two workers recently died on the shipbreaking beach of Alang, India. Two separate accidents took place at well-known scrapping yards that have applied to be included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities.

 

On July 29, 50 years old Subash Vishwakarma lost his life at Priya Blue yard - Plot V1. He was working on a ship when a metal plate fell on his head. He was transferred to the nearest hospital in bad condition and pronounced dead at arrival. On September 3, due to an explosion during cutting operations, one worker lost his life and one got severely injured at Shree Ram yard - Plot 78/81. Fellow workers that witnessed the tragic event were unwilling to share information with journalists. The accident is under police investigation.

"We expect transparency on the causes of these fatalities, and that both the yards and owners of the vessels upon which the accidents occurred are held to account."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Last year, at least 14 workers lost their life at the Indian Alang shipbreaking yards. The exact number of fatalities is not available as local authorities do not share information — serious injuries are moreover rarely recorded, and occupational diseases, such as cancer, respiratory and skin diseases, are not documented at all.

 

Both Priya Blue and Shree Ram plots [1] were amongst the first yards to obtain so-called “Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention” from Japanese ClassNK. Recently, they have been inspected by the European Commission to assess whether they comply with the requirements set in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. Site inspection reports highlighting a series of deficiencies related to the cutting operations in the intertidal zone, downstream waste management, medical facilities and labour laws were published earlier this year. As a consequence, the yards, despite significant pressure from industry stakeholders, were not included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities. New inspections, also of additional yards, are expected to take place in the coming weeks.

 

The negative environmental impacts of the scrapping activities in Alang are now under scrutiny also in India. In August, the Indian Courts directed an environmental audit of the shipbreaking activities in Alang with a specific focus on the impacts of the beaching method. The directions were given in an appeal filed by Indian environmental group Conservation Action Trust (CAT), following an initial approval to expand the Alang shipbreaking area. The approval was issued despite government reports identifying the beaching method as the most polluting method. 

 

Operating a heavy and hazardous industry on a tidal mudflat would never be allowed in the largest ship owning countries, including the EU. The many risks involved in taking large vessels apart need to be managed at sites that can safely use heavy lifting cranes, contain pollutants and dispose of hazardous materials in line with international waste laws. The beaching yards in Alang fail on all accounts.

 

Priya Blue yard in Alang, India - © Go Green Go India, 2018

 

NOTES

 

[1] Shree Ram Group owns four plots in Alang. Plots 78/81 and V7 have applied to be included in the EU list. The company also owns Plot 9. Shree Ram hit the headlines in 2016, when Danish company Maersk decided to scrap its old ships Wyoming and Georgia at Plot 78. Investigative journalists revealed severe short-comings of Maersk’s shipbreaking practices in Alang. The Danish shipping giant, however, blatantly disregarded the findings and maintained its beaching mantra.

Press Release – NGOs release new report on North Sea oil and gas recycling

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform released today a research report titled “Recycling Outlook: Decommissioning of North Sea Floating Oil & Gas Units” during a seminar held in Oslo, Norway.

 

With the oil and gas sector seeing a downturn since 2014, the Platform has documented an increasing number of offshore units sold for scrap. While the recycling of fixed installations occurs under strict regulations, there are serious concerns regarding the recycling of floating structures, which classify as vessels. Around 200 floating structures have been identified as scrapped globally since 2015 – an estimated 40% of these assets ended up on South Asian beaches, where they were broken up under conditions that cause irreparable damage to the coastal environment and put workers’ lives and health at risk.

 

Numerous  floating platforms and oil and gas structures can be found in the North Sea, where the global oversupply in the rig-market is pushing the oldest assets to be scrapped. There are currently 59 floating mobile drilling rigs in the North Sea, 18 of which were built before 2001. Whilst some of the older units might be converted/upgraded, it is estimated that most of them will be scrapped in the coming years. So far, the only structure which operated in the North Sea and has been traced to a South Asian beaching yard is the FPSO North Sea Producer. There is a real risk, however, that we will see more of these cases coming up in the near future with more decommissioning projects in the North Sea.

 

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform advocates for the use of green recycling capacity already existing in the region. Indeed, North Sea recycling yards have years of experience decommissioning fixed oil and gas structures. There are several dry docks and contained slipway facilities where the dismantling of  floating structures can take place safely and with due regard for labour and environmental concerns. Ehancing the recycling of offshore structures and ships in Europe would furthermore bring opportunities for the many workers that were laid off  after the recession in the oil and gas sector in 2014.

 

The report was published with the support of Norwegian pension fund KLP. KLP promotes, as an essential part of its responsibility, practices of corporate responsibility and responsible investment. As a large investor in Norwegian companies, and companies based outside of Norway operating in the North Sea, it strives to ensure the responsible recycling of ships and offshore assets, aiming at contributing to a shift towards better practices in the sector.

Photos from KLP's seminar "Responsible disposal of ships and rigs" - © Cato Gustavson/KLP