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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

NOTE

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Diamond Offshore and cash buyer GMS under the spotlight

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Toxic Tide – 2021 Shipbreaking Records

THE TOXIC TIDE

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Explore our Data Visualisation and read our Press Release.

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 


DUMPERS 2019 – Worst practices

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

NOTES

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Press Release – 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 – 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