Maersk Line is sending its first two end-of-life vessels to Alang, India to be scrapped under a new company plan aimed at developing more responsible recycling options along Alang’s infamous stretch of beach.
In a statement released Friday, Maersk said that it has reached an agreement to send the Maersk Wyoming and Maersk Georgia to Alang in late May to be recycled at the Shree Ram yard, which is certified to the standards of the Hong Kong Convention.
The move comes following an announcement from Maersk Group in February announcing a commitment to help selected ship recycling yards in Alang to upgrade facilities and practices to comply with both the company’s and international standards. Maersk’s policy is to only recycle ships responsibly, which until recently has only been feasible in a limited number of yards in China and Turkey.
“By initiating recycling of vessels in Alang at responsible yards, we ensure further development of financially feasible and responsible recycling options to the benefit of Alang and the shipping industry. This development will take time, but we are determined to work with the yards for the long haul,” says Annette Stube, Head of Sustainability in the Maersk Group.
Maersk says it has been witness to steady improvements of conditions at ship recycling yards in Alang in the last couple of years, and following several audits at upgraded facilities there 2015, the Group concluded that responsible recycling can be accelerated in the area if the engagement is made now.
“The Alang plans come at a cost for us, but we will invest money and human resources to ensure we can already now scrap our vessels in compliance with the Hong Kong Convention provisions (HSE) as well as international standards on labor conditions and anti-corruption. We will also have staff on-site at Shree Ram. They will be working closely with the yard to further upgrade practices, processes and facilities to ensure that the recycling of our vessels complies with our standards,” says Annette Stube.
Out of a total of 768 ships recycled globally in 2015, 469 – representing 74% of the total gross tonnage scrapped – were sold to facilities on beaches in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Critics of Maersk’s plan, such as the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, have argued that the practice of beaching will never be safe for workers or the environment, and that Maersk’s decision to resort to the low-cost beaching methods in India undermines European efforts to improve global conditions, as well as the company’s position as an industry leader.
“The situation in Alang is not ‘fantastic’ as stated by Maersk,” said Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform following Maersk’s announcement in February. “Similar conditions would not be accepted in Denmark, in any other shipping nation in Europe, or in the shipping hubs in East Asia. By selling ships to the Alang beach, Maersk is externalising costs for proper recycling and undermining the standard set by the European Ship Recycling Regulation. We expected visionary leadership from Maersk and that their CSR report boasted support for the setting up of a truly modern ship recycling facility in India. Instead they are rubberstamping practices that they previously denounced.”