A total of 193 ships were dismantled in the second quarter of 2019 and the 146 of these were sold to South Asian scrapping beaches, according to new figures released by NGO Shipbreaking Platform. Between April and June, the Platform recorded three accidents that killed at least five workers on the beach of Chittagong, Bangladesh, bringing the total death-toll of the shipbreaking industry this year to at least eight workers.
In the second quarter of 2019, Japanese, Saudi Arabian and Greek ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, followed by Indonesian and South Korean owners, the Platform said.
In the early morning of 15 May, a fire broke out onboard the vessel Bunga Kelana 4, beached at Mahinur Ship Breaking yard, in the Chittagong shipbreaking area. Two workers were killed and four other workers suffered severe burn injuries.
Video footage of the attempts to rescue workers showed extremely rudimentary conditions and a total lack of appropriate emergency response and equipment.
Platform member organisation OSHE reported that the death of another worker was covered up in the same yard, just a few days before the tragic event. On 20 May, Md Manik died when electrocuted at Bathiari Steel. He had been tasked with the illegal construction of barge.
At least another six workers were severely injured at the Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards last quarter. Two were injured when a fire broke out on the bulk carrier ‘Compromise’ on 28 May.
Accident records in Gadani, Pakistan and Alang, India, are extremely difficult to obtain, as the local government does not publish any official statistics and bans access to the yards.
Poor enforcement of national and international environmental and labour laws causes irreparable damage to the environment, workers and local communities. As yards can avoid costs linked to proper environmental protection and the respect of labour rights, their lower operational costs render them a financially more profitable end-of-life destination for ship owners.
All ships sold to the Chittagong, Alang and Gadani yards pass via the hands of scrap-dealers, also known as cash buyers, that most often re-register and re-flag the vessels on their final voyage typically to grey- and black-listed flags of convenience, as Comoros, Niue, Palau and St. Kitts and Nevis.
These flags are not typically used during the operational life of ships and offer ‘last voyage registration’ discounts. They are grey- and black-listed due to their poor implementation of international maritime law.
The high number of flag changes should induce serious concerns with regards to the effectiveness of legislation based on flag state jurisdiction only, such as the EU Ship Recycling Regulation which became applicable on 1 January 2019.
According to the Regulation, EU-flagged vessels have to be recycled in one of the 34 approved facilities included in the EU list.
However, the Platform recorded at least two ships that de-registered from Malta to Comoros prior reaching the beach of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
The Platform has also found that at least five other vessels called at EU ports before starting their final voyage towards the shipbreaking beaches.
Clearly, more efforts are needed to ensure proper enforcement of current legislation on ship recycling as highest profit seems to be the only decisive factor most ship owners take into account when selling their vessels for breaking,
…the Platform concluded.