German owners named and shamed for dire shipbreaking record

German shipowners have come in for sharp criticism for their shipbreaking choices. In a new report from NGO Shipbreaking Platform Germany was labelled as the most irresponsible nation when it comes to breaking up ships.

“It may seem a big surprise for a country whose industry is proud of green technology and engineering solutions, but Germany is responsible for the worst shipbreaking practices amongst all shipping nations when one compares the size of its fleet to the number of ships broken irresponsibly,” the NGO reported. German owners, banks and ship funds had 98 ships rammed up on the beaches of South Asia out of a total of 100 vessels sold for demolition last year, the organisation reported. Moreover, 40% of these were broken in Bangladesh, where the NGO says conditions are known to be the worst.

Amongst the most irresponsible owners named and shamed by the activists are Hansa Mare with 12 ships, Alpha Ship, F. Laeisz and Peter Doehle with seven each, and Dr. Peters, König & Cie, Norddeutsche Vermögen and Rickmers with six each.

“The German shipbreaking practices come with a high death toll,” the NGO said, citing as an example the breaking period of the Renate N at Seiko shipbreaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where three workers were killed and three more injured.

The UN special rapporteur on toxics and human rights has in the past expressed serious concerns in a submission to the German government, criticising the substandard practices of German owners.
“It is not the first time that shipbreaking workers pay with their lives for the failed business practices of German ship owners and their ship funds. Due to numerous bankruptcies resulting from short-sighted and high-risk investment, insolvency administrators appointed by the courts quickly trade the unprofitable ships to the beaches of South Asia, and the bill for the shipping industry’s greed is paid by people and the environment”, commented Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of the platform.

The list of all ships dismantled around the world in 2016, which NGO Shipbreaking Platform has compiled and analysed, shows no improvements of the shipping industry’s management of its end-of-life vessels. Indeed, the number of ships which headed for on the beaches of South Asia totalled 668 last year, accounting for 87% of all tonnage dismantled globally.

“The shipping industry is nowhere close to ensuring sustainable ship recycling practices. Last year, we saw not only an increase in the market share for dangerous and dirty shipbreaking, but also a record-breaking number of EU-owned vessels on the South Asian beaches. A jaw-dropping 84% of all European end-of-life ships ended up in either India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Beaching yards are not only well known for their failure to respect international environmental protection standards, but also for their disrespect of fundamental labour rights and international waste trade law,” said Heidegger.

The platform’s so-called ‘worst corporate dumper prize’ went to the UK-based Zodiac, controlled by Eyal Ofer. Zodiac sold 12 ships for breaking on the beaches in 2016, mostly to Bangladesh. Ofer’s brother Idan was handed the dubious same award the year prior.

Ingvild Jenssen, policy director and founder of the platform urged the EU to take action. “The global shipbreaking crisis can only be solved through measures that go beyond flag state jurisdiction. That is why we call on the EU to demand a ship recycling licence from all vessels visiting EU ports,” Jenssen said.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. It is interesting to see that there is funding for an organization blaming countries for something there is presently no alternative for. Would you blame your neighbor for a casualty on a car scrapyard after he sold his car there? Shouldn’t he sell his care there? If there is a need for safe and environmentally scrapping business then do not start blaming the other business. It’s just the wrong way. Funding for this NGO ivory tower platform is wasted here and should go immediately to Bangladesh to ensure safe practices for the workers.

  2. Dealing with this matter, I see another possibility – but only because many shipyards have empty order books: They could (be forced to) use their capacities and employees to scrap (their) ships in their shipyards and docks.
    But this would mean:
    – The end of the income of many workers in Bangladesh, India and elsewhere
    – Ship owners need to pay for scrapping
    I am not sure if the NGO platform or anyone else involved does want that…

    1. Sorry, you’re at the wrong website; your point has nothing to do with ships designed along water-tank testing, super efficient 2-stroke diesel engines connected directly to optimized propellers up to the latest state of ‘art’ and standards (also exhaust and asbestos) and sailing their whole life around the world.
      …But as I understand you – and you owe a car – you feel responsible later for somebody at the scrap yard where your car is scrapped, who hurts his leg because a part fell off your car and onto his leg, not because his boss (and himself) doesn’t keep safety standards, but just because of sub-standard software of the car…. great, got you!

  3. … and should you mean intentional cheating with VW – isn’t Chrysler also on the list?- no ship has been built by any owner with the knowledge that law or standards are undermined. They are just built by any shipyard (mostly in ASIA) according to the latest standards and ruling… So the scrapping business/industry should commit themselves to their own latest standards. You can find modern scrap yards which deal with decommissioning of e.g. offshore structures etc.. Important is: Short routes from working site to scrap yard for environmental reasons. And keeping good standards that are available.
    …This is the point: Note that it is the country where the scrap yard is, which is responsible for laws and keeping them. Not the owners. Should the ship go back for scrapping to the countries where they have been built, all workers in Indian/Bangladesh etc. countries will have no job anymore… so it is up to them!!!

  4. What a simple view ‘Peter B.’ seems to have… without liability for the consequences of our high standard which is at the expenses of the poorest (- not only regarding scrapping but starting with looking for the cheapest crewing costs hireing Filipinos etc.) Instead of feeling somehow responsible he seems to be kind of proud to give the poor workers these harmful jobs, as if they had many alternatives … The alternitive, to pay for high standard scrapping with good environmental and workers conditions seems to be out of question since the Owners, close to insolvency, need to earn money for scrapping and ‘all workers in India/Bangladesh etc will have no job anymore!’ Wow! Seems that buying e.g. textiles or carpets made by children or in unsafe buildings is as well not in our responsibility etc…..
    How serious are the ethical values of the industrial nations? Just fake?
    ‘What a wonderful world! For us.

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