NGO Shipbreaking Platform/SDPI Report – Pakistan Shipbreaking Outlook 1st version (2013)

Pakistan Shipbreaking Outlook
The Way Forward for a Green Ship Recycling industry – Environmental, Health and Safety Conditions
(First Edition of October 2013)

This is the first edition of the report. Click here to see the second edition of this report.


“Shipbreaking is a hazardous  industry  for both workers and the environment. Despite the fact that Pakistan is  one of  the  world’s  largest shipbreaking countries–  currently  ranking fourth  in the  annually  scrapped  volume  –  so  far  only  little  attention  has  been  given  to  the  sector  in Pakistan  both  by  the  government  as  well  as  civil  society.  Despite  the  dangers  presented  by shipbreaking,  workers in Pakistan are still not adequately protected and trained to reduce  the risks  of associated hazards. The industry is shaken  by  frequent accidents that  injure, maim and kill workers. Hazardous wastes recovered from the ship s  are not handled, stored and disposed of  properly, but  dumped  around the shipbreaking yards  or re-sold  on the local market.  Due to the  lack  of  adequate  technology  and  equipment,  proper  waste  handling  procedures  are  not followed.  So  far,  the  sector  can  neither  prevent  pollution  and  the  repartition  of  hazardous materials into the local market nor mitigate the risks of accidents and occupational diseases.

Although most ships are  dismantled in countries far away from the headquarters of the large ship-owning companies, the primary responsibility for clean and safe ship recycling lies with the ship owners who economically benefit from their vessels  over  several  years. Currently, selling an  end-of-life  vessel  to  South  Asia  means  following  the  path  of  least  resistance.  Companies obtain the highest price for their ships as they do not have to take into account the real costs of clean and safe recycling, but can externalise them to the importing country instead.

After  more  than  15  years  of  discussion  at  the  international  level  about  how  to  make shipbreaking cleaner and safer, the necessary expertise  is  now  available  to change  the current practice.  The  Sustainable  Development  Policy  Institute  (SDPI)  and  the  NGO  Shipbreaking Platform believe that the Pakistani authorities together with the local shipbreaking industry can –  in  a  joint  effort  with  international  organisations  –  initiate  the  change  needed  to  turn  the industry into a “green” sector. In order to accomplish this goal, the shipbreaking industry needs to  adopt  more  advanced  methods,  as  practised  in  other  parts  of  the  world,  and  move  its activities  from  breaking  ships  directly  on  the  beaches  to  structures  that  allow  for  the containment of pollutants, proper handling of hazardous wastes, the safe use of heavy lifting equipment and the rapid access of emergency response in case of accidents.

Pakistan is State party to the Basel Convention and must therefore ensure the environmentally sound  management  of  hazardous  wastes  if  it  allows  for  the  import  of  end -of-life  vessels. Moreover,  new  legislation  such  as  the  EU  Regulation  on  Ship  Recycling  and  the  Hong  Kong Convention, neither of which have yet entered into force, will demand an upgrade if the sector in Pakistan  wants to compete with  countries offering “green” ship recycling.  The pressure on governments in  ship-owning countries, for instance  in  the  European  Union,  as  well  as  on  the shipping  industry,  to  ensure  that  end-of-life  vessels  are  recycled  in  compliance  with international standards, is constantly growing.  More and more ship owners  seek clean and safe solutions.  A competitive ship recycling industry must therefore be based  on  high standards of environmental protection and workers’ safety.

This  study  presents  a  short  overview  of  the  economic  conditions  and  the  international  and domestic  legal  framework  according  to  which  the  Pakistani  shipbreaking  sector  needs  to operate,  and  provides  information  on  the  current  conditions  in  the   shipbreaking  yards  in Pakistan  based  on  a  survey  conducted  amongst  workers,  yard  observations,  and  stakeholder consultation.  In  publishing  this  paper,  the  NGO  Shipbreaking  Platform  and  its  member organisation  Sustainable  Development  Policy  Institute  (SDPI)  seek  to  contribute  to  the discussion on how to make shipbreaking in Pakistan  cleaner and safer, and to provide researchbased policy recommendations.

We hope that  our recommendations  will help us reach out  to decision-makers in Pakistan, in Europe  and  on  the  international  level  and  to  convince  more  and  more  stakeholders  that  the reduction  of  risks  and  controversy  associated  with  shipbreaking  in  South  Asia  are recommendable  also  from  an  economic  point  of  view.  Higher  standards  will  be  required  to maintain the viability and sustainability of the sector  in Pakistan, and the sooner the industry starts to take the necessary steps, the easier will the transition be.”