Tradewinds – EU green lobby defends hard-line stance as Alang blast kills five

(Written by Adam Corbett and Pinaki Routray)

4 July 2014 - NGO Shipbreaking Platform says it will continue to enforce European waste laws to stop ships such as the Global Spirit going for scrap in India after another fatal accident highlights safety problems

European environmentalists are claiming a hard-line campaign against the sale of ships for demolition in India has been vindicated following another fatal accident on the beaches of Alang and are challenging the shipowners’ view that European waste requirements should not apply to shipping.

As earlier reported, action by Brussels-based lobby group NGO Shipbreaking Platform led to the detention of the 47,500-gt car carrier Global Spirit (built 1987) in Belgium, prior to its planned demolition in Alang, by enforcing the European Union (EU)’s Waste Shipment Regulation.

The vessel’s owner changed the demolition site to Turkey, which, as an OECD member state, is permitted to dismantle the ship — and it has been released.

On Friday last week, five workers in Alang were killed on plot 140 by an explosion while dismantling the tanker Perin. The ship was actually sold for demolition as the 48,577-dwt Perla (built 1988) — IMO number 8405842 — before changing its name. In line with common practice, it also changed flags from Liberia to Comoros and then, lastly, to St Kitts and Nevis.

TradeWinds understands that the blast on the Perin killed labourers Hiralal and Ajay Chaudhary, Ram Prasad, Sanjay and Subhash Yadav, and injured Ram Chandra and Dharmendra Kumar.

A second explosion occurred on the 4,700-teu boxship MSC Socotra (built 1995) at plot 41, which caused serious injury to several workers.

According to local sources, both vessels had been purchased by cash buyers — the Perin for $424 per ldt and MSC Socotra for $480 per ldt.

They say plot 140 is owned by Paras Steel Corp and plot 41 by Shanti Ship Breakers Pvt Ltd.

Police are understood to be questioning Jayasukhlal Shah, owner of Paras Steel Corp yard, and Rajbhai Bansal, owner of Shanti Ship Breakers.

It has also emerged the MSC Socotra’s last voyage before demolition may have been from Italy, making it — as a non-EU flag vessel — subject to the EU Waste Shipment Regulation.

NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s Ingvild Jenssen says she will be contacting the Cyprus-based owner of the Perin and highlighting its involvement in the ship sale. Jenssen, who worked on the Global Spirit campaign, says the accident demonstrates why the organisation is taking action against ships heading for India.

“This is a sad reminder that the Belgian government did well to prevent the Global Spirit from going to India,” Jenssen said.

International shipowners’ representative, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), argues the Waste Shipment Regulation should never have applied to the Global Spirit.

It said: “ICS maintains that the detention was inappropriate, and that this EU regulation was never intended for application to international shipping or to ships which are scheduled to be recycled.”

The ICS adds that it was encouraged the Belgian government had said that, following the Global Spirit detention, it will begin the process of ratifying the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (Hong Kong Convention).

Nikos Mikelis, an independent consultant and architect of the Hong Kong Convention at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), also challenges the detention of the Global Spirit.

“My experiences, especially in the last two years, with the influence the [NGO Shipbreaking] Platform has in Brussels, have made me question the way Europe legislates and then implements its legislation,” he said.

“The Global Spirit is a clear example of a disregard of common sense and also to the stated aims of Europe of improving standards in shiprecycling internationally.

“At the end of the day, I felt some justice has now been done by the pragmatic position that was adopted by the Belgian authorities in the aftermath of this three weeks’ detention…”

Yet Jennsen warns that even if the Hong Kong Convention and Europe’s recently agreed Ship Recycling Regulation come into force, it would not prevent incidents such as the Global Spirit happening again.

“The ICS has been talking about the need to ratify the Hong Kong Convention but, even if it was enforced, the result of the Global Spirit could have been the same,” she said.

Jenssen says she believes the Waste Shipment Regulation, based on the Basel Convention, could still be applied by EU governments against foreign-flag ships if the Hong Kong Convention or EU regulation did not offer equivalent measures.

She also points out that both the Hong Kong Convention and EU regulation have standards that would exclude many of the Indian shipbreaking yards.

Shashank Agrawal, group legal advisor of Singapore-based cash buyer Wirana Shipping, believes the Alang incidents will certainly raise the earlier controversy over adoption of safety standards at the world’s largest ship-scrapping location.