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Ship owners not quite saying goodbye to beaching

A total of 744 large commercial ships were sold to scrap yards last year. ‘Of these vessels, 518 were broken down on tidal mudflats in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan,’ urges Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. This amounts to a record-breaking 90,4% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally that year.

Sub-standard ship dismantling practices are still a major issue for today’s recycling industry, delegates were told at the Ship Recycling Conference in Amsterdam this week. The United Arab Emirates, together with Greece and America top the list of worst ship ‘dumpers’ in 2018.

Ship owners in the United Arab Emirates were responsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards, with 61 ships being dismantled there. Greek owners beached 57 vessels out of a total of 66 sold for demolition. American owners closely followed with 53 end-of-life vessels broken up on South Asian tidal mudflats.

A lethal game

Jenssen revealed that the ‘worst corporate dumper’ prize goes to the South Korean liner Sinokor Merchant Marine. The company, which has been struggling financially and is about to merge its container operations with Heung-A, sold 11 vessels to shipbreaking yards. Of these, eight vessels ended up in Bangladesh and three in India.

A worker processing one of the ships at Leela Ship Recycling Yard in India was killed last April when an iron plate fell on top of him.

The second worst company in this list is Norwegian Nordic American Tankers. Last year, the business reported having earned US$ 80 million for the sale of eight vessels for breaking. Three were sold to Alang (India) for breaking and five were sold to yards in Chittagong (Bangladesh).

Ten years later

On a positive note, delegates gathered in Amsterdam were glad to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Hong Kong Convention. Thus far, six EU member states – including the Netherlands – have met the targets outlined in the ship recycling regulations. Norway is eager to live up to the requirements as well.

Until the convention is enforced, however, this is being done on a purely voluntary basis. Besides, the reflagging of EU-flag vessels remains a big obstacle. Ship recyclers expressed the hope that the industry will make a big leap forward in the next ten years – though they would preferably not wait that long for ‘real change’ to manifest itself.

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