Out of a total of 1026 ships dismantled globally in 2014, 641 – representing 74% of the total gross tonnage (GT) scrapped – were sold to substandard facilities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh where ships are dismantled directly on tidal beaches. None of the South Asian yards comply with international standards for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling.
End-of-life ships contain toxic materials such as asbestos, heavy metals, PCBs, oil residues and organic waste within their structures – these pollutants cannot be contained or safely removed on a tidal beach. The demolition of the largest movable man-made structures is hazardous and must be conducted in a controlled manner using adequate infrastructure such as cranes as well as necessary health and safety provisions – in 2014 the Platform reported 23 deaths and 66 severe injuries due to accidents such as explosions, workers crushed under steel plates and falling from heights on the South Asian beaches.
“South Asia is still the preferred dumping ground for most ship owners as environmental, safety and labour rights standards are poorly enforced there,” said Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Ship owners sell their ships to the beaching yards for considerably greater profit than the price they could obtain by cooperating with modern ship recycling facilities. It is shameful for the shipping industry that so many ship owners choose to close their eyes to the realities on-the-ground in South Asia and do not to face up to their responsibility and demand clean, safe and just ship recycling.”
Despite the new EU Ship Recycling Regulation, which entered into force on 30 December 2013 and which out-rules the use of the beaching method to dismantle EU-flagged vessels, 41 ships registered under the flags of EU Member states Malta, Italy, Cyprus, UK and Greece hit the beaches in 2014. 15 additional ships changed their flag from an EU to a non-EU flag just weeks before reaching South Asia. As in previous years, particular flags of convenience such as Saint Kitts and Nevis (64 ships), Comoros (39 ships), Tuvalu (24 ships), Tanzania (20 ships) and Togo (20 ships) that are less favoured during operational use, were excessively popular flags for the end-of-life ships broken in South Asia. Any attempt to regulate ship recycling based only on flag state responsibility will have little impact due to the extensive use of non-compliant flags. Unless an economic incentive is added to the EU’s Ship Recycling Regulation, the registration of EU ships under flags of convenience such as Saint Kitts and Nevis, Tuvalu and Comoros is likely to increase, and will allow ship owners to sail around the law once it enters into force, and to continue dumping their ships in substandard facilities.
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