518 ships broken on South Asian beaches in 2018 

518 ships broken on South Asian beaches in 2018 
Illustrative picture. PHOTO CREDIT: Safety

A total of 744 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2018, out of which 518 were broken down on South Asia beaches, accounting for a record-breaking 90.4% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally, according to data released by NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

The Founder and Executive Director of NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Ingvild Jenssen, said, “The figures of 2018 are shocking. No ship owner can claim to be unaware of the dire conditions at the beaching yards, still they massively continue to sell their vessels to the worst yards to get the highest price for their ships. The harm caused by beaching is real.

“Workers risk their lives, suffer from exposure to toxics, and coastal ecosystems are devastated. Ship owners have a responsibility to sell to recycling yards that invest in their workers and environment.” 

NGO Shipbreaking Platform said last year, at least 34 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. At least 14 workers died in Alang, making 2018 one of one of the worse years for Indian yards in terms of accident records in the last decade. 

Another 20 workers died and 12 workers were severely injured in the Bangladeshi yards. In Pakistan, local sources confirmed 1 death and 27 injuries. Seven injuries were linked to yet another fire that broke out on-board a beached tanker.

Data from the platform shows that United Arab Emirates (UAE), Greece and the US top the list of country dumpers in 2018.

UAE owners were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2018 – 61 ships in total. Greek owners beached 57 vessels out of a total of 66 sold for demolition, while American owners closely followed with 53 end-of-life vessels broken up on South Asian tidal mudflats.

The platform’s 2018 figures show that the ‘worst corporate dumper’ was the South Korean liner Sinokor Merchant Marine. The company sold 11 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2018: eight vessels ended up in Bangladesh and three in India.

Norwegian Nordic American Tankers (NAT) last year reported profit of USD 80 million from the sale of eight vessels for breaking. Three were sold to Alang for breaking and five were sold to breakers in Chittagong.

According to local sources in Bangladesh cited by the platform, the cutting operations of these ships started without required government authorisations. The sale of two additional vessels to yards in Bangladesh with particularly poor track records and where two workers were killed in 2018, prompted Norwegian pension fund KLP to blacklist the company.

Other known shipping companies that in 2018 sold their vessels to breaking yards include: Chevron, Costamare, H-Line, Louis plc, Seabulk, Sovcomflot, Teekay, German owner Dr Peters GmbH & Co KG,Zodiac Group and CMB.

The NGO said it documented an increase in offshore units that have gone for scrap. Out of the 138 oil and gas units identified as demolished in 2018 alone, 96 ended up on the beaches of South Asia. Figures include 81 small-sized tug/supply ships and 33 semi-submersible platforms.

Ship owners are facing increased pressure from investors and credit providers to stop selling their ships to beaching yards. In early 2018, Scandinavian pension funds KLP and GPFG were the first to divest from four shipping companies due to their beaching practices. Today, banks, pension funds and other financial institutions are actively taking a closer look at how they might contribute to a shift towards better ship recycling practices off the beach, taking into account social and environmental criteria, not just financial returns, when selecting asset values or clients.

Losing financing and clients, however, should not be the only concern of ship owners, as they can be held criminally liable such practices.

Communication and Policy Officer at NGO Shipbreaking Platform, Nicola Mulinaris said, “Clean and safe solutions are already available. Responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, recycle their vessels off the beach. The EU maintains a list of clean and safe ship recycling facilities. More ships need to be diverted towards these sites.”

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