Press Release – Clemenceau’s sister ship heading for the scrapyard

France must act responsibly

 

The French Courts stopped the scrapping of the asbestos-laden aircraft carrier Clemenceau on the beach of Alang, India [1]. Fifteen years later, France is faced with a second toxic headache. The Clemenceau’s sister ship São Paulo (ex Foch) will soon be dismantled and the French government must approve of the dismantling destination.

 

The vessel was sold by the French Navy to Brazil in 2000, where it became the new flagship of the Brazilian Navy. After countless serviceability issues, which impeded the ship’s operation for more than three months at a time without the need for costly maintenance, it was formally decommissioned; its auctioning began last year in Rio de Janeiro.  So far, both EU-approved ship recycling facilities and yards located on the infamous beach of Alang have submitted documentation to participate in the bidding process.

 

The São Paulo, as the Clemenceau, contains large amounts of hazardous substances within its structure. It is estimated that onboard the vessel there are approximately 900 tons of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, hundreds of tons of PCB-containing materials and large quantities of heavy metals. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, BAN, BAN Asbestos France, IBAS and Brazilian ABREA have already alerted both Brazilian and French authorities about the legal, environmental and health risks linked to breaking toxic ships on the beaches of South Asia.

"The large amounts of asbestos still onboard the São Paulo need to be handled and disposed of without exposing workers and surrounding communities to the risk of cancer. The contractual clause in the sale of the Foch to Brazil gives France the last say in where the aircraft carrier can be dismantled. French authorities must direct the Clemenceau’s sister ship to an EU-approved facility – anything else would be a scandal."
Annie Thebaud-Mony - Professor - Ban Asbestos France
São Paulo aircraft carrier in Rio de Janeiro, 2019

On the ship-breaking beaches of South Asia it is impossible to contain pollutants, including heavy metals and oil residues, as there are no impermeable structures and flooring in the primary cutting zone. The lack of adequate personal protective equipment at the beaching yards, as well as the lack of adequate health facilities, is of grave concern and has been highlighted in recent reports.

 

NGOs call upon Brazilian and French authorities to make sure the São Paulo does not end up on a South Asian beach and is safely recycled in an EU-listed yard or converted to other use.

 

NOTE

 

[1] On 31 December 2005, the Clemenceau left France despite fierce protests about improper disposal and a lack of facilities for the management of toxic waste on the beaches on South Asia. After having been boarded by activists, held by Egyptian authorities, been blocked from entering Indian waters by the Supreme Court of India, the warship was ordered to return to France by French President Jacques Chirac. It ended up been dismantled in a yard near Hartlepool, UK.

 

 

 

Platform News – Global ban on exporting hazardous waste to developing countries becomes law

The Basel Ban Amendment, adopted by the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous and Their Disposal in 1995, became international law on December 5 last week. This amendment, now ratified by 98 countries, and most recently, by Costa Rica, prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from member states of the European Union, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Liechtenstein to all other countries. This agreement is now a new Article (4a) of the Basel Convention.

 

The many countries and organisations that helped create the Basel Ban Amendment, including the Platform’s member organisation Basel Action Network (BAN), can celebrate their persistence. In view of the continuing export of unwanted electronic wastes, plastic wastes and end-of-life vessels from the Global North to highly-polluting operations in Asia and Africa, the ban is seen as relevant today as it was 30 years ago when ships loaded with barrels of toxic waste left their deadly cargo on the beaches of African and Latin American countries.

"The Ban Amendment is the world's foremost legal landmark for global environmental justice. It boldly legislates against a free-trade in environmental costs and harm. "
Jim Puckett - Executive Director and Founder - Basel Action Network

Despite the achievement of the Ban Amendment, powerful industries - currently, the electronics and shipping industries - are now trying to change the definition of that to which the Ban applies. They do so in order to exempt their products from the legal restraints imposed by the Convention and the Ban.

"Shamefully, electronics manufacturers like HP, Dell and Apple are lobbying for the Basel Convention to call non-functional electronics 'non-waste' and thus not subject to the Basel Ban if somebody simply declares these wastes as possibly repairable."
Jim Puckett - Executive Director and Founder - Basel Action Network

Likewise, the shipping industry has run screaming from their Basel responsibilities for old obsolete ships to create its own Hong Kong Convention, designed specifically to perpetuate the dumping of toxic vessels on South Asian beaches.

 

Further, noticeably absent from the list of countries having ratified the ban is the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico. 

"There can be no excuse for any country to use poorer countries as convenient dumping grounds for their waste, and it is especially ugly to do this in the name of recycling or the circular economy. With the Ban Amendment now international law, we hope and urge that all countries that have failed to ratify it will reconsider what it means to be global leaders in the age of globalisation."
Jim Puckett - Executive Director and Founder - Basel Action Network

Press Release – Conditions of shipbreaking workers in India remain appalling

Local authorities fail in enforcing national labour laws

 

Today, The New Indian Express reveals that conditions for the shipbreaking workers at the beach of Alang, India, have not improved. Based on the findings of recent independent research carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, the article highlights the lack of protective equipment, inadequate health facilities and far too long working hours. Hundreds of vessels are taken apart with little or no regard to safety, the newspaper says. 

 

The TISS report, a follow-up of Associate Professor Dr Geetanjoy Sahu’s first report published in 2014, reveals continued serious breaches and lack of effective enforcement of national laws aimed at the protection of workers’ rights. Data collected by the Platform and Toxic Watch Alliance shows that there have been more than 500 fatal accidents since 1983 at the Alang shipbreaking yards – and at least 48 since 2014. According to the TISS report, more than half of the total workers interviewed said they had been injured at their workplace in the past one year. 39 per cent of these workers informed that they had not received any medical support; 52 per cent did not get any wage or compensation when they were on leave due to injury; and, 18 per cent continued to work despite their injuries as they were worried to loose wages. 

 

The lack of proper medical facilities in Alang is of particular concern. There are only three simple health clinics, two of them run by the Red Cross Society and a small one run by a private doctor. Neither have necessary equipment to treat major and life threatening injuries. It is, furthermore, worrying that the workers who participate in the trade union activities stated that they prefer confining their role to address basic issues such as sanitation and water supply, rather than demand a halt to hazardous working conditions and adequate medical treatment and accident compensation. An alarming 37 per cent of the interviewed workers do not even want to participate in the trade union activities as they feel it might threaten their employment. 

 

The lack of a database created or maintained by the district authorities about the number of workers in the ship breaking yards renders it difficult to ensure the welfare of the workforce in Alang. Whilst most are migrant workers, mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the TISS report reveals that they do not receive housing facilities even though they are entitled to under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act 1979. Instead, they continue to live in and around the yards in rented shanty dwellings without adequate facilities for potable water, sanitation and electricity. 

 

"There is no lack of laws in India to protect both workers and the environment from the many harms caused by the unsustainable practices in Alang. It is high time that the Indian government enforces these laws to ensure that the industry embraces truly safe and green recycling practices off the beach."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

India’s recently approved Ship Recycling Bill (2019) and ratification of the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention risk undermining existing laws and fail in establishing an effective framework for improving industry practices. The standards set by the Hong Kong Convention are weak, and have also been strongly criticised for simply rubberstamping beaching, a method which is banned in major ship owning countries.

Alang, India 2018 - © REUTERS / Amit Dave

 

 

Press Release – NGOs win FPSO North Sea Producer case

Bangladesh Court denounces illegalities and lack of transparency in shipbreaking sector

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Press Release – Platform publishes list of ships dismantled worldwide in 2018

Record-breaking 90% of end-of-life tonnage scrapped on South Asian beaches

 

According to new data released today by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 744 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2018. Of these vessels, 518 were broken down on tidal mudflats in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to a record-breaking 90,4% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally. 

"The figures of 2018 are shocking. No ship owner can claim to be unaware of the dire conditions at the beaching yards, still they massively continue to sell their vessels to the worst yards to get the highest price for their ships. The harm caused by beaching is real. Workers risk their lives, suffer from exposure to toxics, and coastal ecosystems are devastated. Ship owners have a responsibility to sell to recycling yards that invest in their workers and environment."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Last year, at least 35 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. The Platform documented at least 14 workers that died in Alang, making 2018 one of one of the worse years for Indian yards in terms of accident records in the last decade. Another 20 workers died and 12 workers were severely injured in the Bangladeshi yards. In Pakistan, local sources confirmed 1 death and 27 injuries. Seven injuries were linked to yet another fire that broke out on-board a beached tanker. 

 


DUMPERS 2018 – Worst practices

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, GREECE and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA top the list of country dumpers in 2018. UAE owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2018: there were 61 ships in total. Greek owners, beached 57 vessels out of a total of 66 sold for demolition. American owners closely followed with 53 end-of-life vessels broken up on South Asian tidal mudflats. 

 

The ‘worst corporate dumper’ prize goes to the South Korean liner Sinokor Merchant Marine. The company, which has been loss-making and is about to merge its container operations with Heung-A, sold 11 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2018: eight vessels ended up in Bangladesh and three in India, where in April, during the demolition of Sinokor’s PLATA GLORY at Leela Ship Recycling Yard [1], a worker died hit by a falling iron plate. 

 

Norwegian Nordic American Tankers (NAT) - incorporated in Bermuda and stock-listed in New York - is runner-up for the ‘worst dumper’ prize. Last year, NAT reported having earned USD 80 million for the sale of eight vessels for breaking. Three were sold to Alang for breaking and five were sold to breakers in Chittagong. According to local sources in Bangladesh, the cutting operations of these ships started without required government authorisations. The sale of two additional vessels to yards in Bangladesh with particularly poor track records and where two workers were killed in 2018, prompted Norwegian pension fund KLP to blacklist the company. 

 

Seven vessels were sold to beaching yards for dirty and dangerous scrapping by German owner Dr Peters GmbH & Co KG. According to local sources, fitter Md Samiul lost his life while scrapping Dr Peters’ DS WARRIOR in December 2018.

 

Other known shipping companies that in 2018 sold their vessels for the highest price to the worst breaking yards include: Chevron, Costamare, H-Line, Louis plc, Seabulk, SOVCOMFLOT, Teekay, Zodiac Group and CMB. Belgian CMB is still under investigation for the export of the MINERAL WATER to Bangladesh in 2016.


With the oil and gas sector seeing a downturn in the last couple of years, the Platform has documented an increase in offshore units that have gone for scrap. Out of the 138 oil and gas units which have been identified as demolished in 2018 alone, 96 ended up on the beaches of South Asia. Figures include 81 small-sized tug/supply ships and 33 semi-submersible platforms. Noble Corp, ENSCO, Tidewater, Diamond Offshore and Petrobras are amongst the biggest offshore players that dump their assets on the South Asian beaches. While most assets were exported from either East Asia or America, Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS are under investigation in Scotland for having attempted to illegally export three platforms that had operated in the North Sea and were cold-stacked in Cromarty Firth. The platforms have been under arrest in Scotland since January 2018.

 

Ship owners are facing increased pressure from investors and credit providers to stop selling their ships to beaching yards. In early 2018, Scandinavian pension funds KLP and GPFG were the first to divest from four shipping companies due to their beaching practices. 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.

 

Losing financing and clients, however, should not be the only concern of ship owners who continue to use dirty and dangerous scrap yards. In 2018, and for the first time ever, a ship owner was held criminally liable for having illegally traded four end-of-life ships to Indian beaching yards. Several other cases of illegal traffic are under investigation. These cases focus not only on the liability of the ship owner, but also on the responsibility of insurers, brokers and maritime warranty surveyors. By unravelling the murky practices of shipbreaking, which involve the use of middle men, or cash buyers, and flags of convenience such as Comoros, Palau and St. Kitts & Nevis, these cases highlight the importance of conducting due diligence when choosing business partners.

"Clean and safe solutions are already available. Responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, recycle their vessels off the beach. The EU maintains a list of clean and safe ship recycling facilities [2]. More ships need to be diverted towards these sites."
Nicola Mulinaris - Communication and Policy Officer - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

For the list of all ships dismantled worldwide in 2018, click here. *

For detailed figures and analysis on ships dismantled in 2018, 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 Plata Glory was beached in December 2017 at Leela Ship Recycling yard. Leela holds a so-called Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention issued by ClassNK and claims to be offering “green recycling”.   

 

[2] The EU has published a list of ship recycling facilities around the world that comply with high standards for environmental protection and workers’ safety. The EU list of approved ship recycling facilities is the first of its kind and an important reference point for sustainable ship recycling. 

 

Press Release – Another Dutch ship owner faces huge fine for having beached a vessel

Dutch ship owner Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV has been fined 780.000 EUR and paid a settlement of 2.2 million EUR - totaling to a price tag of almost 3 million EUR - for having beached a ship for scrapping in India.

 

In 2013, Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV, a subsidiary of WEC Lines BV, sold the HMS Laurence to a cash buyer, a company specialised in the trade of end-of-life vessels to beaching yards. The vessel ended up in Alang, India, where it was broken under conditions that “cause serious damage to the environment and expose the health of workers and the local population to grave danger”, according to the Dutch Public Prosecutor. Scrapping ships on tidal mudflats is not allowed in Europe, and the export of hazardous materials [1] from the EU to developing countries is prohibited. 

 

Following criminal investigations on the illegal export of the vessel from Italy, the Dutch Public Prosecutor agreed to a settlement of 2.2 million EUR: the amount that Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV had earned by selling the ship to the beaching yard. The Prosecutor stated that it had accepted the settlement as the company has announced that it will take measures to avoid scrapping vessels on beaches in the future. 

"It is very encouraging to see that ship owners are being held accountable for the trafficking of toxic ships – it is also encouraging to see that WEC Lines BV is now committed to the safe and clean recycling of its fleet off the beach. With that they join other responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, that already have sustainable recycling policies in place that clearly rule out beaching."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Already in 2015, the captain of the HMS Laurence was sentenced by the Dutch Maritime Disciplinary Court to a six-month conditional suspension of his master’s navigation license. Beaching the vessel was in breach of the captain’s duty of care to the environment, according to the Disciplinary Court. This first suspension of a European ship master revealed that also the crew can be held liable for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking.

 

In March last year another Dutch shipping company, Seatrade, was convicted for having intended to scrap four vessels in India. Five subsidiaries of the company received fines, as did two of Seatrade’s CEOs, who were also sentenced to professional bans. 

 

The Netherlands is taking a leading position on the cracking down on illegal trafficking of toxic ships. More investigations are also underway in other European countries, such as the Harrier case in Norway and the North Sea Producer case in the UK. Last week, in Bangladesh, a shipbreaker was sentenced to a 280.000 USD fine for having scrapped a vessel on the touristic Parki Sea Beach. The court emphasised that beaching causes irreparable damage to the local ecology.

"Both exporting and importing countries are starting to hold industry stakeholders accountable – it is high time to scrap the beaching method and replace it by proper recycling in facilities that can contain pollutants and ensure safe working conditions. Better methods exist and facilities that operate under higher standards have the capacity to take in more ships. An increased demand for sustainable practices will see more investments in yards that meet the standards of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. "
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

EU-flagged vessels are now exempt from the EU Waste Shipment Regulation that regulates the export of hazardous wastes, as they fall under the scope of the new EU Ship Recycling Regulation [2]. Under the new legal regime, EU-flagged ships must be recycled only in safe and sound facilities included by the EU in the European List of ship recycling facilities. Beaching yards will not be accepted on the EU list as they fall short of the environmental and safety requirements that the Regulation sets. 

 

NOTES

 

[1] The HMS Laurence – as most vessels – contained toxic materials within its structure. 

 

[2] The EU Waste Shipment Regulation continues to cover non-EU flagged vessels. 

 

 

Press Release – Seatrade convicted for trafficking toxic ships

Today, the Rotterdam District Court sentenced, on the basis of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, shipping company Seatrade for the illegal export of vessels sent for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia. The Seatrade company has been heavily fined, and two of its executives have also been banned from exercising the profession as director, commissioner, advisor or employee of a shipping company for one year.

 

For the first time, a European shipping company has been held criminally liable for having sold vessels for scrap to substandard shipbreaking yards in India and Bangladesh, where, as widely acknowledged and according to the Prosecutor, “current ship dismantling methods endanger the lives and health of workers and pollute the environment”. The Prosecutor’s request that the Seatrade executives face prison was only waived in light of this being the first time such criminal charges had been pressed.

 

This groundbreaking judgement sets a European-wide precedent for holding ship owners accountable for knowingly selling vessels, via shady cash-buyers, for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximize profits.

"We strongly welcome the judgement of the Rotterdam Court. The ruling sends a clear-cut message that dirty and dangerous scrapping will no longer be tolerated."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Press Release – NGOs respond to legal threats by shipbreaking industry and withdraw from industry conference

On Monday, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, an international coalition of labour, human rights and environmental organisations, withdrew their participation from the TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum that starts today in Hamburg. This is in response to a letter from cash buyer GMS threatening to sue unless the Platform removes all mention of GMS from their website. The Platform has frequently exposed the cash buyer for enabling the dirtiest and most underhanded practices in the shipbreaking industry [1]. Tradewinds refused to replace GMS company staff as chair in the sessions in which the Platform was to participate as experts, despite being noted that it is a conflict of interest and inappropriate to allow discussions to be moderated by a person representing a company that is threatening to legally attack a session invitee.

 

No company would accept to participate in a debate moderated by someone threatening to sue them”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “We regret not being able to present our views at TradeWinds where we would have especially provided our support to the many financers, investors and authorities that are now engaging to set a standard for the industry and who are demanding to move the industry off the beach”, she adds.

 

In reaction to the attempt by GMS to silence critical civil society voices that reveal the company’s unethical, dangerous and environmentally disastrous business practices, the Platform’s legal counsel in Belgium and in the US has further responded in a letter that neither an apology nor retractions will be forthcoming.

 

We have no intention to remove truthful information from our website and will not apologise for reporting on the business of trafficking ships for dirty and dangerous breaking. It is our organisation’s mission to provide authorities, journalists, and industry stakeholders with information on the deplorable realities of current shipbreaking practices which encourage the circumvention of existing labour and environmental protection laws“, says Ingvild Jenssen.

 

The harassment by GMS comes in addition to the earlier threat to sue the Platform made by PHP, a Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard and a supporting sponsor of this year’s TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum.

 

NOTE

 

[1] Dubai-based GMS has been involved in several cases of illegal hazardous waste exports that are being/have been investigated by authorities and the police in several countries. For instance:
- GMS was revealed to be the cash-buyer for the illegal export of the North Sea Producer from the UK to Bangladesh: https://old.danwatch.dk/en/undersogelse/maersk-og-det-farlige-affald-i-bangladesh
- Three drill rigs stacked in Scotland were stopped from leaving after their destination was suspected to be to a beaching yard in South Asia. GMS has been confirmed as the buyer of the rigs: https://www.energyvoice.com/opinion/162853/opinion-scrap-shady-underbelly-offshore-industry/?utm_source=twitter
- Last year, a worker in Bangladesh claimed compensation for injuries incurred while breaking a ship owned by Zodiac Maritime. GMS was revealed to be the cash buyer behind the sale to the shipbreaking yard: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/dec/02/chittagong-shipbreaking-yards-legal-fight
- In 2009 the company was fined $518,500 dollars by the US EPA for illegally exporting a PCB laden passenger liner to South Asia: http://www.marinelog.com/DOCS/NEWSMMIX/2009jan00311.html

 

 

Maersk’s toxic trade: the North Sea Producer case

Maersk's toxic trade: the North Sea Producer case

In August 2016 the FPSO NORTH SEA PRODUCER was beached in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The ship was allowed to leave the UK based on false claims that it would be further operationally used in the Tin Can port in Nigeria. In both the UK and Bangladesh, the Platform is fronting the battle to hold the owners, and cash buyer GMS, accountable for the illegal export of the FPSO.

 

The North Sea Producer (ex Dagmar Maersk) was deployed in the McCulloch field in the North Sea, transporting and extracting oil from the UK continental shelf for 17 years. It was owned by the North Sea Production Company, a single-ship joint venture between Danish A.P. Moeller Maersk and Brazilian Odebrecht. Once the field closed, the NORTH SEA PRODUCER was laid up in Teesport, UK, for a year while the owners were looking for buyers. For scrapping purposes the ship was only allowed to be sold to a facility within the OECD as any export of hazardous waste outside the OECD is in breach of EU law. 

 

Maersk and Odebrecht chose to sell the ship to the largest vessels’ scrap dealer, cash buyer GMS, through a St. Kitts and Nevis post box company called Conquistador Shipping Corporation. They then provided the UK authorities with a false contract stating that the NORTH SEA PRODUCER had found a new owner who would operate the ship in Nigeria.

 

Despite the vessel being under the radar of local communities in Teesside and was well-known in the shipping industry for needing to be scrapped, the UK authorities relied on the false contract to allow the FPSO to leave on tug. But the NORTH SEA PRODUCER never ended up in Nigeria. Instead it was towed directly all the way from the UK, around the African continent, to Bangladesh. The Platform was quick to alert both the UK and Bangladesh governments of the illegal export. It was only once the FPSO had left the UK – and after the case was strongly criticised in Danish and international press – that Maersk was “very, very sorry” that Conquistador Shipping Corporation had beached the NORTH SEA PRODUCER in Chittagong. According to Maersk, the new owners took this decision independently – and Maersk had been tricked. In their Sustainability Report 2016, Maersk also stated that they had cut all commercial ties with the buyer of the NORTH SEA PRODUCER: an obviously meaningless statement if that implies cutting ties with Conquistador Shipping Corporation, a single-ship post box company. Only when caught red-handed did Maersk admit that they knew all along the buyers were GMS, the largest waste traffickers in end-of-life ships. Maersk and Odebrecht knew the vessel would be scrapped - they also knew GMS would bring it to South Asia for dirty and dangerous scrapping in breach of EU waste laws.

 

Once the ship arrived at the Janata Steel shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, and upon alerts issued by local NGOs, the Bangladesh Attorney General of the Department of Environment set up a special committee to determine the presence of contaminated residues and to investigate the ship’s illegal import due to the lack of necessary clearances and false claims that it was hazardous-free. Having operated in the North Sea, the vessel’s pipelines likely contain residues contaminated by radioactive materials and sulphur. Other toxics, such as asbestos and heavy metals, are contained within the structure and paints of the ship. 

 

Upon a request from the Platform’s member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), the report on the ship’s condition was released: it’s conclusion was that radioactive residues were found upon inspection and that further surveys needed to be carried out on the whole ship. BELA subsequently succeeded in getting an injunction on the breaking of the NORTH SEA PRODUCER. On 14 November the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh declared the import, beaching and breaking of the infamous FPSO North Sea Producer illegal.

 

The Court further noted with dismay the incessant violations of national and international laws by the shipbreaking industry, and passed several directions upon the government to regulate the sector in line with earlier rulings. The Court directed authorities to i) subject cash buyers and agents to stricter scrutiny, including a detailed recording of their particulars, and to hold them accountable to the strictest sanctions; ii) regulate the import of vessels registered under “last voyage” grey- or black-listed flags which are particularly popular with cash buyers, including Comoros, Palau and St. Kits and Nevis, and; iii) ensure that no vessel is imported without proper verifiable pre-cleaning certificates and declarations of in-built hazardous wastes, and/or by yards that do not fully comply with the requirements for obtaining an Environmental Clearance.

 

In the UK, the Platform demanded the Secretary of State for Environment to investigate the illegal export from Teesside. UK authorities have been looking into the case since then to establish the responsibility of all parties involved. Providing fraudulent documentation in order to circumvent existing waste export bans is a criminal offence, in Europe and internationally via the Basel Convention. In parallel Danish parliamentarians have requested that the Environment Minister to also take action to hold Maersk accountable.

 

Maersk and Odebrecht were well acquainted with the GMS’ notorious trafficking of waste ships. They were also well aware of the illegality of selling the vessel for scrapping in South Asia. This is not a case of poor human rights due diligence, but one where companies collude to earn big bucks on the back of people and the environment.

 

 

Press Release – Dutch prosecutors press criminal charges against Seatrade

Managers risk prison sentences and hefty fines for the illegal sale of end-of-life ships

 


CORRECTION

 

Brussels, 15 February 2018 – Following discussions with the Dutch Public Prosecutor, cash buyer GMS was not confirmed to be the end-buyer of the Seatrade’s vessels. Evidence provided to the Court showed that GMS had made an offer for at least one of the ships, which supports the Prosecutor’s case on Seatrade’s intent to dispose of the vessel(s).


 

For the first time in Europe, Public Prosecutors are bringing criminal charges against a ship owner – Seatrade – for having sold vessels to scrap yards in countries “where current ship dismantling methods endanger the lives and health of workers and pollute the environment”. The case is being heard in a Rotterdam Court this week, and the Dutch Public Prosecutor calls for a hefty fine (2.55 mill EUR) and confiscation of the profits Seatrade made on the illegal sale of four ships, as well as a six month prison sentence for three of Seatrade’s top executives. Seatrade is based in Groningen, the Netherlands, and is the largest reefer operator in the world.

 

In 2013, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform had revealed Seatrade’s sale of the SPRING BEAR and SPRING BOB to respectively Indian and Bangladeshi breakers. The heavy charges pressed by the Dutch Prosecutor additionally involve the scrapping of the SPRING PANDA and SPRING DELI in Turkey, and are based on international laws governing the export of hazardous waste and the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The Regulation prohibits EU Member States from exporting hazardous waste [1] to countries outside the OECD, as well as requiring a prior informed consent for such exports. All four vessels departed on their last voyage to the breaking yards from the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg in the spring of 2012.

 

[The Prosecutor presented evidence that Seatrade was planning on selling the ships via a cash-buyer in order to maximize financial gain. In e-mail exchanges between Seatrade and Baltic Union Shipbrokers, cash buyer GMS offered the highest price for special parts of at least one of the vessels. The end-sale was not to GMS, but another undisclosed cash buyer.] According to the Prosecutor, Seatrade opted for using a cash buyer, rather than recycling the ships in a safe and clean manner, for purely financial reasons. [Cash buyers, such as GMS, are] infamous scrap-dealers specialized in bringing ships to the beaches of South Asia, where the price of end-of-life vessels is higher due to the exploitation of migrant laborers and to weak, or no, enforcement of safety and environmental standards. According to the Prosecutor, that Seatrade knowingly sold the vessels for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximize profits further aggravates the charge [2].

 

Despite ongoing criminal investigations, Seatrade sold two more ships – the SINA and ELLAN – for dirty and dangerous breaking on the beach in Alang, India, in August 2017”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “This case adds itself to the growing demand, including from investors and major shipping banks, for better ship recycling practices”, she adds.

 

Authorities in Norway, Belgium, and the UK will be paying close attention to the verdict of the case. Similar cases are currently being investigated there, involving shipping companies such as Maersk and CMB, as well as the world’s largest cash-buyers GMS and Wirana.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] Ships contain many substances that are toxic within their structure, including asbestos, heavy metals and residue oils. Since Seatrade specializes in transporting refrigerated goods, all the vessels additionally contained chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), a substance which is known to cause ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol (on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer), which entered into force in 1989, has since its adoption phased out and prohibited the use of CFCs.

 

[2] Earlier this year the world largest private investor, the Norwegian Oil Pension Fund, divested from four shipping companies due to their poor shipbreaking practices. They also argued that selling a vessel to a beaching yard “is a consequence of an active choice on the part of the company that owned the vessel to maximise its profit”.