Tag Archives: ship-breaking

How to Break Toxic Ships: send them to another country

MV "HANSA BRANDENBURG.  Image from Black Sea News

WWF-Pakistan has warned Pakistan against the import of a European ship, which is suspected to have burnt containers and cargo that may contain a substantial amount of hazardous materials such as heavy metals or PCBs.  Moreover, the vessel is suspected to carry dangerous substances in fire fighting water as well as a significant amount of fuels and oil. This container ship caught fire in July (2013) and was later towed to Port-Louis in Mauritius. (MV “HANSA BRANDENBURG”,).MV Hansa Brandenburg is a 2002-built Liberian-flagged container ship operated by the German shipping company Leonhardt & Blumberg.

WWF-Pakistan considers that this ship if imported to Pakistan may cause severe marine pollution in the Gadani area, which is already stressed because of a number of economic and industrial activities. Unplanned construction such as Fish harbour has already had serious environmental impact in the area, which is also designated as energy corridor and construction of power plants may have impact on the marine environment of the area unless proper mitigative measures are taken. According to WWF-Pakistan Technical Adviser (Marine Fisheries) Muhammad Moazzam Khan, the area of the Gadani is a part of Sonmiani, which is considered to have a rich marine biodiversity especially around Churna and Kaio islands. Dumping of toxic waste might seriously harm the fragile ecosystem of the area.

Agencies asked not to import vessel loaded with toxic chemicals, Daily Times (Pakistan) October 4, 2013

See also the Shipbreaking Business

The Shipbreaking Business: how European states dump hazardous waste in South Asia

Shipbreaking Bangladesh. Image from wikipedia

Hundreds of European vessels are scrapped under hazardous conditions in South Asia every year. European parliamentarians have approved a new regulation to tackle the problem – but critics say it will have very limited impact…“With this, we will have a safer disposal of ships. About 90 percent of the European vessels are scrapped illegally and the Basel Convention has failed to do something about this,” said Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter, who negotiated the agreement with the Council and guided the legislation through the European Parliament. “Last year one European ship was sent to a substandard beaching yard in South Asia every day.”

European Union-registered ships will now have to be recycled at EU-approved facilities that meet specific safety and environmental requirements and are certified and regularly inspected. The European Commission would be obliged to act if NGOs report irregularities.  Both EU ships and non-EU ships would also have to carry an inventory of hazardous materials when calling at ports in the EU. The regulation is likely to enter into force in the beginning of 2014.

Patrizia Heidegger from Shipbreaking Platform, a global coalition of organisations working for safe and sustainable ship recycling, is not pleased with the outcome…She says that the regulation will not have a large impact since ship owners can easily flag out and circumvent the regulation if they don’t want to comply. The coalition wants the regulation to apply to all ships calling at European ports, instead of only the EU-flagged vessels.

Schlyter pushed for an EU fund to subsidise safe recycling of the ships. The fund would have been financed by fees on ships docked in EU ports, but the parliament rejected this part of the proposal.  “Without the ship recycling fund the new regulation won’t be effective. A ship recycling fund would put obligations on the ship owners beyond the flag,” Heidegger said.  “The fund was supported by all the political groups, but then the parliament voted it down after strong lobbying from ship owners and EU ports. The ports claimed that the arrangement would result in over 100 percent increase in fees, which is not true,” Schlyter told IPS.  Schlyter says that with a fund in place it would not pay to flag out. He says that the commission might propose creation of a fund later if the new regulation proves insufficient….

European ship owners dumped 365 toxic ships on South Asian beaches last year, according to the Shipbreaking Platform.  Of the top 10 European “global dumpers” in 2012, Greek ship owners were number one, dumping 167 ships on Asian beaches. German ship owners represented the second largest group of toxic ship dumpers with 48 ships, followed by ship owners from the UK with 30 ships, and Norway with 23 ships scrapped on beaches in South Asia.  According to the coalition most of the end-of-life ships sent by European ship owners did not fly an EU flag but flags from Panama, Liberia, the Bahamas or St Kitts-and-Nevis.  Bangladesh tops the list of countries having the greatest number of ships scrapped every year, with India and Pakistan trailing far behind. Unskilled and unprotected workers manually handle poisonous chemicals and are also exposed to the risk of explosion while dismantling old vessels.

Excerpts,By  Ida Karlsson, New EU Rules ‘Fail’ Against Shipbreaking Dangers, IPS, July 17, 2013

See also Greens against the Workers

Ship Recycling or Ship Breaking; Greens against workers

At its height in 2008 Bangladesh’s ship-breaking industry accounted for half of all ships scrapped in the world, according to IHS, a consultancy. Today the country accounts for around a fifth. In these years Bangladeshi ship breakers found themselves at the forefront of criticism as NGOs and pressure groups exposed some of the worst practices causing environmental and human harm. These included high health risks due to injuries, noxious fumes and the handling of asbestos. Critics say one way in which Bangladesh competes on cost is that poor workers are unlikely to file claims for accidents or bad health. Another advantage is (or was) the use of child labour.

In 2009 the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), a public-advocacy group, convinced the Supreme Court to ban all ship recycling not meeting certain environmental standards. The court’s decision meant that by 2010 the ship-breaking industry had come to a halt. Zahirul Islam of PHP, a local manufacturer with a big ship-breaking division (the industry prefers to call it ship recycling), says that for 14 months the company was unable to import a single vessel for breaking.  Knock-on effects hurt the wider economy. A World Bank study estimated that ship breaking employed over 200,000 in Bangladesh. Many of the jobs were subsequently lost. And domestic steel prices rose sharply. Half of all Bangladesh’s steel comes from breaking ships.  Under pressure from the ship breakers, Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has since relaxed the regulations. Hefzatur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, believes this has saved the industry. From just a score of vessels scrapped in the main part of Chittagong two years ago, about 150 were broken up in 2011.

Greens are not happy and want the ban reimposed. Delphine Reuter of the Shipbreaking Platform, an NGO in Brussels, describes ship recycling as “close to slavery”. It and BELA are leading the call for more regulation. That bothers international shipping firms and ship brokers, which argue that Bangladeshi ship breakers have cleaned up their act.

At the International Maritime Organisation, the UN agency responsible for curbing shipping pollution and ensuring safety, the head of pollution prevention, Nikos Mikelis, says environmentalists present Bangladesh with a false choice. “They say they are happy to have the industry, but not on the beaches. Where do they want it? In the mountains?”

Ship breaking in Bangladesh: Hard to break up, Economist, Oct. 27, 2012, at 44