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Icelandic operator acknowledges fault over illegal shipbreaking

A leading transportation company from Iceland has apologised for failing to prevent two vessels it sold from being broken up illegally at the notorious and dangerous yards at the Indian beach of Alang, rather than by legitimate operators complying with European standards.

Eimskip has been at the centre of media attention for several days after Icelandic broadcasters alleged the export was in clear breach of European waste laws, which prohibit the trade of hazardous waste, including end-of-life ships, from OECD countries to non-OECD countries.

According to the TV programme that revealed the fate of the vessels, their new owner was GMS, a well-known cash buyer of end-of-life ships. GMS is said to be behind nearly half of the total tonnage that has been beached in the Indian subcontinent this year.

Initially, Eimskip rejected the allegations saying it believed the vessels were to be kept operational. It maintained the new owners had taken the decision to sell them for recycling in India. But it also revealed that the Environment Agency of Iceland had reported the company to the prosecutors for alleged violation of the Icelandic Waste Management Act.

Now Eimskip has now made a further comment on the scandal. Although the company believes that it complied with laws and regulations in the sale process, it is clear that the company could have made greater requirements towards the buyer in light of the age of the vessels.

‘That could be done by including a provision in the sales contract that if the vessels should be recycled, it would be done in a recycling yard that complies with European standards. Eimskip apologises for not doing so,’ it says.

Eimskip says it will subsequently review its processes and develop a clearer policy on how its vessel fleet is managed, maintained and sold. Ceo Vilhelm Már Þorsteinsson acknowledged: ‘There is consensus among Eimskip’s board of directors and executive management to learn from the incident and adapt the current social and environmental policy to ensure that such occurrences, which are not in line with company’s values and emphases, do not recur.’

In the broadcast, Iceland’s Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson said: ‘I am shocked over what I saw. You feel sad and, at the same time, angry that a company in the West would exploit vulnerable people that have no choice but to work under such horrible conditions. Workers are at constant risk of accidents and even losing their life, and environmental issues are given zero attention.’

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform says at least 14 vessels were sold to beaching yards in breach of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation.

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