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.