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.
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.
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.
Brussels, 20 December 2016 – The Berge Stahl, one of the world’s largest iron ore bulkers, made its last visit at the Port of Rotterdam last week. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform calls on the ship owner, Berge Bulk, and the Dutch authorities to ensure the responsible recycling of the 30 year old vessel.
Brussels, 15 December 2016 – The Danish Environment Minister, Esben Lunde Larsen, had to answer to the Parliament yesterday following questions put to the Government by all the opposition parties.
Brussels/Chittagong, 12 December 2016 – On 4 December, worker Shah Jahan was killed on the spot at Arefin shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where German container ship “Viktoria Wulff” (IMO 9252101) is currently being dismantled on the beach. The 35-year old man, who… More
Brussels, 28 October 2016 – A third report by the investigative journalists of Danwatch, “Maersk and the shadowy deals”, reveals that the Danish container ship giant has incentivised the sale of 14 ships to substandard shipbreaking yards on the beaches of Bangladesh and… More
Brussels, 27 October 2016 – The Maersk-owned floating oil production and storage tanker, North Sea Producer, left the UK in May 2016 and was directly towed to Bangladesh, where it arrived on 14 August 2016. Two days later, the North Sea Producer was beached at the Janata Steel shipbreaking yard in Chittagong.