Waste Management World – Singapore Urged to Recycle Ships Safely and Not on South Asian Beaches

(Written by Ben Messenger)

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7 March 2014 - NGO, Shipbreaking Platform, has called on Singapore-based ship owners to stop selling their end-of-life s to beach-breaking yards in developing countries, but rather demand clean and safe ship recycling, at the recent TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum in Singapore.

According to Shipbreaking Platform – a global coalition of 19 environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations working to prevent dangerous and polluting shipbreaking worldwide – many of the end-of-life ships that end up being broken on beaches are filled with hazardous waste.

“It is now time for South East Asian ship owners to join the front-runners of the maritime industry mainly based in Europe and say no to a practice that is harming the environment and people,” Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of Shipbreaking Platform told the Forum.

“There are various opportunities to choose clean and safe ship recycling, and it’s time for responsible South East Asian ship owners to seize these,” she continued.

According to the NGO, shipbreaking as practiced today on the beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is a cause for pollution of the coastal ecosystems next to the yards. This also includes erosion and an increased risk of floods when the coastal green belt of mangrove trees is cut down in Bangladesh.

Further to the environmental damage, Shipbreaking Platform said that workers are exposed to dangerous waste in the yards and downstream scrap yards, and the industry also effects surrounding communities, including fishermen who have lost their livelihoods.

In a list published in February this year, the Platform claimed that out of 39 Singapore owned ships sent for dismantling last year, almost all were sent to the South Asian beach-breaking yards: 17 ships were sent to India, 9 to Bangladesh and 5 to Pakistan.

By selling ships to such yards, the NGO said that Singapore shipping companies are effectively encouraging substandard shipbreaking that continue to harm the local environment and communities.

“Singapore as an industrialised state and a major shipping hub must make sure it does not externalise costs for hazardous waste management to developing countries when scrapping its ships”, commented Jim Puckett, executive director of the U.S. based Basel Action Network (BAN).

“What is more, ship owners need to develop ship recycling policies that take into account the real costs for responsible recycling,” he added.

Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer from India, also spoke in the conference:

“Shipbreaking yards in South Asia do not operate according to international environmental standards. Ship owners should make sure their end-of-life ships are recycled in accordance with those standards,” she said.

“Ship owners should not just rely on certificates presented to them, but must verify under which conditions their old ships are really demolished,” continued Dutta.

Leading the way

According to Shipbreaking Platform the European Union has effectively disqualified beaching for EU-flagged ships by issuing a new EU Ship Recycling Regulation in December 2013.

The regulation requires recycling facilities to operate from ‘built structures’ and asks for full containment of all pollutants, leakage control and impermeable floors.

The Platform noted that European ship owners that have chosen an anti-beaching position including Dutch ship owner Boskalis, as well as Norwegian companies Grieg Shipping, Wilhelmsen and Höegh Autoliners.

The NGO added that in North America, Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL) has also that it will no longer beach any of its ships, and international oil and gas companies are chosing cleaner and safer recycling for their tankers.

The 2013 lists are available here: http://bit.ly/LHuOTn