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NGO releases list of "EU toxic ships" sent to South Asia in 2011

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 | 00:00
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of human rights, labour rights and environmental organisations working on the shipbreaking issue, has released its third yearly list of European companies that have sent end-of-life ships to the infamous scrap beaches of South Asia. The European Waste Shipment Regulation – which incorporates international law such as the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes – prohibits European Union Member States from exporting hazardous wastes, including those present in the structure of ships to developing countries.
Still, the vast majority of European shipping companies continue to avoid the costs of proper disposal by selling their ships to South Asian breaking yards known for the lack of enforcement of environmental and labour laws, exposing some of the poorest communities to extremely dangerous working conditions and severe pollution.
The top 10 European “global dumpers” in 2011 are:
Greece (100 ships)
Norway (24 ships)
UK (13 ships)
The Netherlands (12 ships)
Germany (11 ships)
Italy (9 ships)
Cyprus,Switzerland (5 ships each)
Bulgaria,Denmark,Romania (4 ships each)
Latvia,Lithuania,Poland,Spain,Sweden (3 ships each)
Belgium,Finland,Ireland,Slovenia (1 ship each)
Once more, the listing of European dumpers also highlights the problem of “flags of convenience” (FOC). Unscrupulous ship-owners - says NGO Shipbreaking Platform - have long used FOCs to evade tax rules, licence regulations, safety standards and social requirements for the treatment of crew. Backed by shell companies, joint-ventures and hidden owners, FOCs are also considerable constraints to combating illegal toxic waste dumping as they make it extremely difficult to locate and penalise the real owners of vessels. In 2011, the top five flags used by European companies were so-called “flags of convenience” as listed by the International Transport Workers Federation, and accounted for 64 percent of the total (almost two thirds) of flags. These are:
Panama (55 times)
Liberia (33 times)
Bahamas, St Kitts-Nevis (12 times each)
Comoros (11 times)
Marshall Islands, St Vincent & Grenadines (7 times each)
Statistics are alarming
Each year, approximately 800 ocean ships reach the end of their service life and are broken down to recover steel. Yet only a fraction is handled in a safe, sustainable manner. About 80 percent of all end-of-life ships are simply run ashore on tidal beaches in developing countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where unscrupulous shipbreaking companies exploit minimal enforcement of environmental and safety rules to maximize profits.
The statistics are alarming. The European Commission estimates that 40,000 to 1.3 million tonnes toxics (including 3,000 tonnes of asbestos) on board end-of-life vessels are exported each year to South Asia from the EU alone.
In March 2012, the European Commission is expected to release proposals for better enforcement of laws related to shipbreaking. Since the Commission first announced in 2006 that it would be working on this issue, publishing also a “Strategy for better ship dismantling” in 2008, no improvement has been made to the current state of play, states the NGO.
Forceful and sustained action at the European level is especially urgent because the global phase-out of single hulled oil tankers and the current backlog of old vessels still in operation mean that the number of retired ships that are sent for breaking is reaching an all-time high. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s 2011 list shows more than 200 European ships were sent for breaking on the beaches of South Asia last year.
Source: Recycling Portal
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