Shipbreaking: NGO asks governments to create jobs in the EU for sound recovery

Beached shipbreaking vessel (Foto: NGO Shipbreaking Platform)

Brussels — The Maersk-owned floating oil production and storage tanker, North Sea Producer, left the UK in May 2016 and was beached in August at the Janata Steel shipbreaking yard in Chittagong. According to NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the vessel is likely to contain large amounts of highly contaminated residues including natural occurring radioactive material. The tidal beach, where the ship is currently being torn apart, is known for the human rights abuses and environmental pollution caused by substandard shipbreaking. The tanker’s export from the UK for demolition in Bangladesh was illegal under the European Waste Shipment Regulation.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform calls on the UK Government to hold the Maersk-owned North Sea Production Company responsible for illegal trafficking in hazardous waste. The Platform has send a letter to the UK Environment Minister on 25 October.

The North Sea Producer was owned and operated by UK-based North Sea Production Company, a joint venture between Danish Maersk and Brazilian oil & gas company Odebrecht, with 50 percent ownership each. Having operated in the North Sea as an oil and gas floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, the vessel is likely to contain large amounts of residues that are contaminated by natural occurring radioactive material and sulphur in addition to the various other hazardous materials in its structure and tanks. The Bangladesh shipbreaking yards are not equipped with any infrastructure that could safely remove and dispose of such toxic wastes. According NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the North Sea Producer was allowed into Bangladesh based on a fake certificate stating that the tanker did not contain any hazardous materials. The import of end-of-life ships containing hazardous waste into Bangladesh is banned, but circumvented with such false documents.

“If Maersk sells a contaminated old oil tanker to an anonymous post box company in the Caribbean under the pretense of further operation use, this is at best a total failure of due diligence, if not punishable negligence. We expect the UK authorities to hold all involved companies responsible for illegal hazardous waste trafficking”, said Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“It is highly likely that the North Sea Production Company sold the ship directly to cash buyers GMS (Global Marketing Systems), via an anonymous post box company in St. Kitts and Nevis. GMS is one of the world’s largest companies that specialises in selling end-of-life tonnage to the beaching yards in South Asia”, commented Patrizia Heidegger. “While GMS has recently been extremely busy in polishing its image with claims of ‘green ship recycling’, the company’s track record – and obvious continued practice – tells another story. GMS continues to strike deals with some of the worst shipbreaking yards in the world, including those in Bangladesh where hazardous waste management capacity is completely absent, where illegal child labour persists, and where workers are killed or maimed in accidents that could have been avoided.”.

And she added: “We are asking governments to effectively prevent any future illegal waste trafficking as we have seen with the case of the North Sea Producer. The large number of vessels and structures used in the North Sea that will need to be decommissioned in the coming years should prompt public strategies for the creation of jobs in the EU that promise the environmentally sound recovery of valuable resources.”

Source: NGO Shipbreaking Platform