05 July 2010

Maersk wants to end “beachings”:

A.P. Moller - Maersk has a policy on responsible ship recycling at least 5 years before international requirements on workplace safety and environment enter into force.

A large part of the world shipping industry still uses once pristine tidal beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan as a junk yard.

Between 60% and 80% of the world’s out-of-service vessels are sailed on shore there and cut to bits and pieces by thousands of workers, often barefooted, and often with no safety protection whatsoever. Accidents, explosions and deaths are commonplace in what is the world’s most dangerous work place, according to the UN’s International Labour Organization, ILO.

The scene is different at the China Changjiang Ship Recycling Yard in Jiangyin near Shanghai.

The yard, used by Maersk, lives up to stringent international standards for safety and environment. Standards that are now also part of the Group policy approved by Maersk’s Executive Board in January.

To date Maersk has successfully recycled ships in China without a single injury.

“When we sell a ship to be recycled in a responsible way, we often get USD 1 million less than what we could have obtained otherwise. But that’s the cost of being a responsible corporate citizen,” says Soren Andersen, Head of Maersk Line Vessel Management.

Traditionally Maersk has sold its ships long before the end of their operating life, but up until the mid-1990s a few of the Group’s vessels were nevertheless scrapped when no better alternatives were available.

Still, Maersk decided early on to invest in responsible dismantling methods and became one of the first movers in the industry. By 2008 the executive arm of the European Union held up Maersk as a good example.

“European ship owners can be expected to act in a spirit of corporate social responsibility. Practical examples for this exist already today,” The European Commission wrote in a strategy paper. The word “examples” referred directly to Maersk.
Now, international requirements are approaching within an estimated five years, and Maersk is making a business out of responsibility. A special unit for ship recycling takes in outside clients as well.

Recycling is a very dangerous business, but it doesn’t have to be more dangerous than building ships. It’s the same thing, only in reverse,” says Tom Peter Blankestijn, Director of Maersk Green Ship Recycling.

Green organisations are indeed lauding Maersk for being ahead of the rest of the industry.

“We applaud Maersk for showing leadership and taking a stance against the dangerous and polluting practice of breaking ships on tidal beaches,” says Ingvild Jenssen from the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking.

Source: Maersk Line. 5 July 2010 

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