New figures show that India received the most vessels at its shipbreaking yards in 2017, with Greece the biggest culprit of unethical dumping, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
According to new data from the platform, which works to raise awareness and prevent the human rights abuses in the market, 835 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2017.
It found that 543 were broken down – by hand – on the tidal beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
This figure amounts to 80.3% of all tonnage dismantled globally.
Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said: “The figures of 2017 are a sad testimony of the shipping industry’s unwillingness to act responsibly.
“The reality is that yards with infrastructure fit for the heavy and hazardous industry that ship recycling is, and that can ensure safe working conditions and containment of pollutants, are not being used by ship owners.
“It is particularly shameful that so many European shipping companies scrap their vessels on beaches.
“Their obvious lack of interest to ensure that shipbreaking workers around the world enjoy best available technologies, and that the environment is equally protected everywhere, clearly calls for additional pressure from authorities, shipping clients and financers.”
Shipbreaking leads to workers – often migrants and some of them children – losing their life or suffering from injuries caused by fires, falling steel plates and the general unsafe working conditions.
There are also occupational diseases due to exposure to toxic fumes and materials.
The industry also has environmental impacts on coastal ecosystems, and the local communities depending on them, which face exposure to toxic spills and various pollutants leaking into the environment due to the dismantling of vessels on beaches.
In its announcement, NGO Shipbreaking Platform stated: “Despite the terrible accident that shook the international shipbreaking community in 2016, no lesson has been learned in Pakistan.
“In 2017, at least 10 workers lost their lives at the shipbreaking yards on the beach of Gadani.
“The Platform documented 15 deaths in the Bangladeshi yards last year, where also at least another 22 workers were seriously injured.
“Whilst international and local NGOs were repeatedly denied access to the Indian shipbreaking yards, the Platform was informed of at least eight fatal accidents in Alang in 2017.”
All vessels sold to the beaching yards pass through the hands of scrap dealers known as cash buyers.
By doing this, ship owners attempt to shield themselves from responsibility, and are paid upfront the highest market price in cash for their end-of-life vessels by the dealers.
To reduce costs and to exploit the loopholes in international legislation, cash buyers will change a vessel’s flag to one of the typical last-voyage flags of convenience, such as Comoros, Palau and St Kitts and Nevis.
Cash buyers will also register the vessel under a new name and a new post box company, rendering it very difficult for authorities to trace and hold cash buyers and ship owners accountable for illicit business practices.
Carlsson added: “Ship-owning companies that stand by their corporate social responsibility directly sign contracts with ship recycling facilities they have inspected and found adequate.
“Choosing to sell a ship to a facility which is on the EU list of approved yards is the easiest way for a ship owner to be assured that there has been a quality check.
“Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for ship owners to simply blame the cash buyer: investors and authorities are expecting ship owners to control the choice of the recycling yard, and expect that choice to be a yard that does not endanger workers and the environment.”
Source: port technology. 21 February 2018