Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Dutch shamed on unregulated ship breaking

17 January 2012 – The Netherlands is among the top five European Union countries when it comes to the unregulated dumping of old ships to be scrapped on beaches in South East Asia, say campaigners.

Twelve old ships whose last owners were Dutch companies ended up in India in 2011, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of international human rights and environmental organisations.

The group campaigns for the sustainable scrapping of end-of-life ships. It has released a list of the ‘top ten’ EU member states, where companies are guilty of selling old ships to be gutted on the beaches of southeast Asia.

Toxic waste

After about 30 years, a ship is no longer of use as a sea-going vessel and is sold for scrap, which includes the steel making up much of its structure. Each year around 800 old ships are scrapped, many of them on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Shipbreaking Platform complains that international regulations for the safe disposal of the toxic waste left by the process- this includes asbestos, oil and heavy metals – are rarely complied with in these countries. Wages are low and the work is often hazardous, with injury and even death among workers a regular occurrence. Local environmental damage is also considerable, according to the group.

It is pushing for the Netherlands and the European Commission to improve compliance with the international regulations. Shipbreaking Platform says alternatives do exist and that the sustainable scrapping of ships takes place in many parts of the world, for instance in China.