Laws and Guidelines

Three United Nations bodies deal with the issue of shipbreaking – UNEP, IMO and ILO. Under existing regulations on waste trade, ships sold for breaking are considered to be waste. It is illegal for a developed country to sell a ship for breaking to a developing country without first removing all toxic materials contained within the ship’s structure. Because of the high price tag of such cleaning operations, the shipping and shipbreaking industry have exploited loopholes in existing regulations and continue dismantling ships on South Asian beaches. The Platform’s advocacy work and legal battles aim at halting the export of toxic ships to developing countries.


The Basel Convention

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) adopted the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal in 1992 following numerous hazardous waste trafficking scandals in the late 1980’s. The Basel Convention controls the international trade of hazardous wastes and is relevant for ship dismantling as a ship usually contains hazardous materials such as asbestos, PCBs, oil residues and other toxic substances.

The Basel Convention has been ratified by 181 countries and remains the only international regulation which aims at protecting developing countries from the dumping of toxic wastes. Recent cases of illegal toxic trade include the Probo Koala case in 2006, where the ship Probo Koala was used by the company Trafigura to dump extremely toxic waste close to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, causing the death of 16 people according to Ivorian authorities, and injuring thousands of others. Of particular concern today is also the huge amounts of electronic waste dumped in especially China and Africa.

The Ban Amendment

In 1995, an amendment to the Basel Convention banning the export of wastes intended for recovery and recycling to developing countries was adopted. 81 countries have already ratified the Ban Amendment.  At the European level the Ban Amendment has been incorporated in the European Waste Shipment Regulation, meaning that all European Union Member States are not allowed to export hazardous wastes to developing countries. Still, many European ships end up on the beaches of South Asia.

The Technical Guidelines

In 2002, the Basel Convention also adopted Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of the Full and Partial Dismantling of Ships , a document for countries that already have or are establishing ship dismantling facilities. The Guidelines provide information and recommendations on procedures, processes and practices that must be implemented to attain safe and environmentally sound ship dismantling. The Guidelines also provide advice on monitoring and verification on environment performance.

Download the Technical Guidelines (taken from the Basel Convention website)
In English
In Spanish
In French
In Bengali
In Hindi
In Turkish
In Urdu (part 1, part 2)

For more information see:
Basel Convention website
Basel Action Network (BAN) website

Find out more about toxic waste aboard ships in “Problems and Solutions”
See the complete story of the Probo Koala in “Ships in the spotlight”
Watch the video of BAN tracking electronic waste in China here

What the Platform is doing

To ensure that toxic ships are not simply run up on the tidal beaches of developing countries, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform advocates for improved enforcement of  the Basel Convention and takes part in the negotiations at the Basel Convention’s Open Ended Working Groups and Conferences of the Parties.
Platform submissions to the Basel Convention
Outcome of Basel COP 10
Sign our OFF THE BEACH ! petition to help us stop the beaching practice


The Hong Kong Convention

In May 2009, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted the Hong Kong Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. Guidelines supporting this Convention are currently being developed by the IMO. The Hong Kong Convention is not expected to enter into force before many years. To this date only Norway, France and the Congo have ratified the Convention (France last on 2 July 2014), although several other countries have signed it. There is no concrete date that was set for ratification and different institutions have different estimates as to when it will enter into force.

NGO Shipbreaking Platform demonstration at IMO Convention May 2009
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has contributed to the negotiations of the Hong Kong Convention. In May 2009 the Platform, supported by more than 100 NGOs globally condemned the Hong Kong Convention for legalizing scrapping of toxic ships on tidal beaches in developing countries.  The European Parliament also warned that the Hong Kong Convention may provide “too little, too late” in their Resolution of 26 March 2009.

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics have further supported the Platform in claiming that the Hong Kong Convention does not provide an equivalent level of protection as that provided by the Basel Convention. In October 2011 the majority of the Basel Convention Parties also considered that the Hong Kong Convention does not provide an equivalent level of protection as that provided in the Basel Convention.

For more information see:
Outcome of the IMO Diplomatic Conference in Hong Kong – May 2009
Platform speech at IMO Diplomatic Conference in Hong Kong
United Nations Special Rapporteur’s report
Center for International Environmental Law’s (CIEL) analysis


What the Platform is doing

On 17-21 October 2011 the Parties to the Basel Convention met to consider whether the Hong Kong Convention provides an equivalent level of control as that provided in the Basel Convention. The Platform was supported by environmental lawyers organisation CIEL and the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council in claiming that the Hong Kong Convention is not equivalent to Basel Convention.
Platform submission to COP10


International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The ILO, a UN agency, has called shipbreaking one of “the most dangerous occupations” in the world. In March 2004, the ILO unanimously endorsed at its 289th session a set of criteria to govern the disposal and recycling of ships. The criteria are outlined in “Safety and Health in Shipbreaking: Guidelines for Asian Countries and Turkey”. These Guidelines are directed at those who have responsibility for occupational safety and health in shipbreaking operations, including shipbreaking employers, workers, and authorities.

The Guidelines suggest a national framework defining the general responsibilities and rights for employers, workers and regulatory authorities in shipbreaking. In addition, the Guidelines provide recommendations on safe shipbreaking operations including the management of hazardous substances, protection and preventive measures for workers against hazards and suggestions for a competency based training program.



Platform News – Legambiente joins Platform’s campaign for sustainable ship recycling

Brussels, 19 September 2016 – The NGO Shipbreaking Platform welcomes onboard Legambiente, its first-ever Italian member organization. Legambiente is a non-profit association created in 1980 for the safeguard of the environment and for the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, production systems and use of… More


Platform News – ECSA’s Alang report turns a blind eye on problems of beaching method

Brussels, 20 July 2016 – The European Community Shipowners’ Association’s (ECSA) has published a report on their visit to the Alang shipbreaking yards in India last April. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform criticises the report for ignoring the many grave shortcomings of the beaching… More


Press Release – European Commission report recommends the introduction of a Ship Recycling License

Brussels, 6 July 2016 – Ships regardless of their flag should not be allowed to call at any EU port without a ship recycling license to incentivise sustainable ship recycling, a European Commission report recommends. The report published looks into the possibility of introducing a financial incentive to enhance safe and environmentally sound ship recycling.


Platform News – Surge of fatal accidents in Chittagong

Brussels, 27 June 2016 – At least five shipbreaking workers have been killed and five more severely injured in a series of fatal accidents in Bangladesh this last month only. On 23 May, 21-year old Rubel died at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard when he fell from great heights. He was working without safety equipment. Only six days later, on 29 May, 5 workers were struck by falling steel plates at the same yard which is also referred to as Darussalam or Madina Enterprise. One worker died on the spot, another died in hospital. The three remaining workers were severely injured.

Shipbreaking With Acetylene Cutting Torch, Alang

Platform News – Clean Shipping Coalition: Maersk undermines its reputation with plan to circumvent ship recycling law

Brussels, 8 June 2016 – The Clean Shipping Coalition criticises container ship giant Maersk for its statement that is considers to flag out end-of-life vessels from the Danish or other European registries in order to circumvent the European Ship Recycling Regulation. The Clean… More