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Supporters of beaching method of ship scrapping claim victory after Greenpeace’s faux pas

Supporters of the often-controversial beaching method of ship demolition practised in the Indian sub-continent claimed a tactical victory when M V Rongdhonu, a ship previously owned by Greenpeace International, was recently beached for breaking at the PHP yard in Chittagong, causing much embarrassment to the iconic campaigner and one of its most-stringent critics.

In 1989, Greenpeace bought the Rainbow Warrior II—a ship built in the United Kingdom in 1957. After participating in several activist campaigns across the globe, Greenpeace donated her to the Bangladeshi branch of the EU-based NGO Friendship to serve as a hospital ship in 2011, and the ship was re-named as Rongdhonu (rainbow in Bengali).

For many years, the media and NGOs, particularly the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform, have consistently criticised yards in the sub-continent for its allegedly poor recycling facilities, unsafe practices and working conditions. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh follow the beaching method of dismantling ships, under which ships are first grounded and then broken apart.

Becoming eco-friendly
India is upgrading the world’s largest stretch of ship-breaking beaches on Alang-Sosiya in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district to become eco-friendly through a $76 million soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The planned upgrades include building impervious (concrete) floors to prevent pollutants from entering the sub-soil and improving existing environmental facilities such as the incinerator and oil recovery systems.

Since 2015, recycling yards in Alang-Sosiya have also voluntarily started upgrading their facilities to conform to the ‘Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships’ that was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2009.

The IMO Convention does not prohibit the dismantling of old ships by the beaching method, but, a separate set of rules framed by the European Union requires ships to be decommissioned “off the beach in safe and secure facilities”.

The Shipbreaking Platform has been campaigning to ban the beaching method of ship demolition and has scuttled attempts by green recyclers in the sub-continent to win approval from the EU for inclusion in the list of yards where EU-flagged ships can only be dismantled.

“After years of this debate, GMS is pleased to see the ex-Rainbow Warrior II—one of the most globally recognised vessels previously owned by the world’s leading campaigner against beaching and recycling in the sub-continent—has finally accepted the fact that responsible recycling in the sub-continent is the most prudent option for ship owners worldwide,” said a spokesperson for GMS Inc, the world’s largest buyer of ships and offshore assets for recycling. It is also a strong supporter of the beaching method.

“We have made a mistake, one that we have tried to correct,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “We have allowed the Rongdhonu to be scrapped on a beaching yard in Bangladesh, in a way that does not live up to the standards we set ourselves and campaigned with our allies to have adopted across the world,” it added.

“When we transferred the ship to Friendship in 2011, we retained the right of veto over any final disposal plan. We should have consulted our partners in the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the Basel Action Network. There is much to be done to protect workers and the environment from the dangers of ship breaking and we regret that having made the mistake sends the wrong signal about the readiness to do so in Bangladesh. Greenpeace does not believe that breaking ships apart on tidal beaches is green,” it said.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

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