Tradewinds – Greens call for Belgium to act on ‘toxic’ ship

(Written by Adam Corbett)

6 June 2014 - Environmentalists are confident they have convinced politicians to prevent a Japanese car carrier now loading in Belgium from sailing on to be scrapped in Alang, India.

The 47,500-gt Global Spirit (built 1987) was due to leave Belgium today but the NGO Shipbreaking Platform has written to the country’s environment minister, Joke Schauvliege, asking him to detain the ship, which the organisation claim contains toxic waste. It has also informed the European Commission (EC) that the vessel is heading for scrap in Alang.

The lobby group says that, under current European Waste Shipment Regulation, based on the Basel Convention, Belgium has a responsibility as the exporting country to prevent the vessel from leaving for disposal in a non-OECD country.

Europe recently agreed its own shiprecycling regulations but they are not yet in force and the waste shipment regulation still applies.

The environmentalists have previously convinced other European countries to act on four similar cases — most notably and recently when the 87,600-cbm LNG carrier Margaret Hill (built 1976) was prevented from leaving the UK.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s Ingvild Jenssen says she is confident the vessel would be prevented from leaving Belgium. “It is clear cut that the European Waste Shipment Regulation is applicable in this case and Belgium faces legal prosecution from the European Union if it does not act,” she told TradeWinds.

“Both government and commercially owned ships are illegal to export to developing countries, and they should all be managed in green shiprecycling yards in developed countries and not on the dangerous and polluting beaches of South Asia.”

The Global Spirit is controlled by World Car Carriers, a joint venture set up between Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and Nissan Car Carriers.

It is currently on charter to Hoegh Autoliners, a 20% shareholder in Nissan Car Carriers.

Jenssen says she has been in contact with the vessel’s owners, who have told her that they are considering alternatives to Alang.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform claims that six workers have already died this year at Indian breaking yards.

It also alleges the Global Spirit is a potential hazard to workers. “The ship is expected to contain asbestos in its construction as well as explosive and flammable fuel residues which lies as a hidden danger for thousands of unprotected workers in Alang,” it said in a statement.

The group claims that the vessel was sold for $512 per ldt, or $6.5m, with the owners, it further alleges, turning down an offer amounting to $380 per ldt to scrap the vessel in Turkey, a country that is regarded as having safer and more environmentally friendly ship-breaking practices.