A cargo ship is dismantled in the tidal zone of a beach in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Photo taken in 2016. By Katiekk / Shutterstock
Of the 835 large ocean-going commercial ships that were sold for scrap in 2017, a total of 543 ships were intentionally run ashore and dismantled by hand at shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where the controversial ‘beaching’ method continues to be the predominant means of disposal for end-of-life vessels, according to new data released by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
The 543 ships represent just over 80% of the total tonnage scrapped worldwide last year, according to the organization.
The new data was released as part of the Shipbreaking Platform’s 2017 list of ships dismantled worldwide, an annual report that highlights the “worst dumpers” and scrapping locations.
The data shows that the practice of ship beaching, where end-of-life-vessels are run aground within the tidal zone and dismantled by hand, continues to be the shipping industry’s preferred method for scrapping despite human and environmental risks and more stringent regulations associated with the practice.
Shipbreaking yards in places like Alang, Gadani and Chittagong are notorious for their often-abysmal safety records and hazardous working conditions. Although certain yards in the regions have made strides to align their operations with international standards for the safe ship recycling, the shipbreaking industry in South Asia continues to be marked by its lax safety oversight and frequent, often-fatal accidents.
In 2017, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform recorded at least 10 deaths at yards in Gadani, eight fatal accidents in Alang, and 15 deaths in Bangladeshi yards, where another 22 workers were seriously injured in accidents.
‘Worst Dumpers 2017’
As was the case in 2016, Germany and Greece once again topped the list of worst “dumpers” by country in 2017, according to the Platform. “German owners, including banks and ship funds, beached 50 vessels out of a total of 53 sold for demolition. Greek owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2017: 51 ships in total,” the Platform said.
Since the Platform began compiling data on worldwide shipbreaking in 2009, Greek shipping companies have consistently topped the list of owners whose ships end up on South Asia’s beaches.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform gave the “worst corporate dumper” prize to Singapore-headquartered Continental Investment Holdings (CIH), the shipowning arm of Myanmar shipowner Captain U Ko Ko Htoo and parent company of Continental Shipping Line. The company, which is currently in the process of reorganizing its fleet, sold 9 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2017, including four vessels that ended up in Bangladesh, according to the Shipbreaking Platform. The organization noted that during the demolition of one of those vessels, a worker was killed after being hit by a falling iron plate.
The container shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) also topped the list, selling a total of 7 vessels to Indian breakers in 2017, bringing its nine-year total for vessels sold for scrapping in Alang to more than 70, according to the Platform’s report. The Japanese owner Mitsui OSK Lines and the UK-based Zodiac Group also sold 6 and 5 ships, respectively, to South Asian yards, the Platform said.
Other known companies that opted for beaching yards in 2017 include Hanjin Shipping, Hansa Mare Reederei, Peter Dohle Schiffahrts, Rickmers Reederei, Hansa Treuhand, Berge Bulk, Costamare, Quantum Pacific Group and Teekay, according to the report.
Among notable shipbreaking trends observed recently, the report also noted the increase in the number of offshore units that have gone for scrap over the last three years due the downturn in the oil and gas industry. Out of the 91 units the Shipbreaking Platform counted as being demolished between 2014 and 2017, 41 of them ended up on the beaches of South Asia.
“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”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “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”, she adds.
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