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Polluting shipbreaking practices threaten Ghanian shores

In light of the recent infrastructure developments taking place at its main ports of Tema and Takoradi, Ghana is aiming to become the main integrated maritime hub of the west African subregion. Yet, certain unregulated practices, such as the demolition of end-of -life vessels, still represent a threat for the ecosystem and the health of the quarter of the country’s population that lives along the coast.

Due to the weak enforcement of environmental legislation, low labour costs and occupational safety standards, and the absence of a legal framework covering the recycling of obsolete vessels, dozens of ships have been arbitrarily dumped on Ghanian shores in the last years. Evans Ago Tetteh, PhD Adjunct Lecturer at the Regional Maritime University in Accra, recently reported on the present situation of ship demolition in Ghana, and provided evidence on the environmental harm caused on the beaches of Kpone by the spillage of hazardous substances, such as marine diesel oil. Some of the toxic vessels beached in Ghana have European ties. It is the case of the refrigerated cargo ship NAFTILOS, which was owned by Greek company Fairport Shipping Ltd and which maritime databases still list as laid-up.

“Ship demolition is causing marine pollution in Kpone and the surrounding towns. Because of the marine oils released into the sea, the fish stock is being depleted, making local fishermen poorer”, says Evans Ago Tetteh.

Shipbreaking yards are granted licences by the Ghana Maritime Authority and permits by the Ghana Port and Harbours Authority, but neither entity follows through on the process to ensure that the scrapping process is conducted in an environmentally sound manner. To date, the Ghana Shipping Act 2003 (Act 645), the Ghana Maritime Pollution Act (Act 932), the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Act 490) and the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control Management Act 2016 (Act 917) are the only laws designed to regulate the ship recycling business, without any sector-specific rules.

In recent years, the number of steel companies in Ghana has increased, particularly near the Tema Kpone industrial zone, as well as the country’s thirst for steel scrap. In light of this new demand for raw materials, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling upon the government of Ghana to develop new legislation tailored to regulate ship recycling activities in line with European standards, and to set up a clean and safe industry with adequate downstream waste management facilities. The beaches are not a suitable place for the breaking of toxic vessels.
Source: NGO Shipbreaking Platform

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