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IATP Weekly News Roundup Blog 19/02/2015


Changing Flags to Use India’s Ship Graveyard

Vessels are switching their nation of registry to avoid EU restrictions

The container ship MV Justus, built in 1995 by Polish shipyard Gdynia Stocznia, spent most of its 19 years plying the seas with a European pedigree. It was first owned by a German ship fund run by Hamburg-based asset manager König & Cie. But like a growing number of aging vessels, the MV Justus changed its nationality only months before being taken out of service. In doing so, it avoided a late 2013 measure by the European Union that banned ships registered in its 28 member nations from using dangerous tidal beaches for ship demolition work.

On July 9, 2014, the ship changed its flag to that of the tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts, according to data from NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of environmental, human rights, and labor rights organizations working toward safe and clean ship recycling. Then, after starting a journey from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands on July 15 and sailing through Port Said and Dubai, data compiled by Bloomberg show, it ended up on Aug. 17 near Bhavnagar, off the coast of the Indian state of Gujarat—defying a year-old restriction from the EU. On Aug. 28, now under an owner called Malwi Ship Breaking, according to Indian government data, the MV Justus docked at Alang, the ofttimes dangerous yard where the world’s ships go to die. True to form, about a month later a worker was killed when he fell from a high ladder while breaking up the vessel. Another was severely injured.

König & Cie. spokesman Detlef Seiler said via e-mail that the ship had declared insolvency. “The sale for scrap was entirely in the hand of the [insolvency] administrator and the financing bank,” he said, and König & Cie. wasn’t involved in the ship’s flag change. Calls to a number for Malwi went unanswered.

Alang’s 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) stretch of land has become the world’s largest yard for what’s known as shipbreaking, the dirty, deadly work of tearing apart massive vessels so that their steel and scrap can be sold or junked.

Despite the EU ban, European ships keep coming to Alang. Some change their registrations, or flags, to countries without such rules just before reaching Indian waters. “There are special kinds of flags” valid for a few months that don’t require an operator to set up shop in the issuing nation, says Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of Brussels-based Shipbreaking Platform, and “they are particularly cheap for a last voyage.”

Besides St. Kitts, the flags come from such places as Comoros, Nevis, and Tuvalu, Heidegger says. Although it could be used by shipowners to sidestep current EU regulations, the process of changing registration is not illegal. Vishwapati Trivedi, India’s shipping secretary, did not respond to interview requests. Nitin Kanakiya, the secretary of India’s Ship Recycling Industries Association, says many owners register their ships in such havens as the Bahamas, Liberia, and St. Vincent for their stricter privacy laws, not in attempts to escape safety rules. Jakub Adamowicz, a spokesman for transport at the EU, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

In Alang, about 1,200 kilometers from New Delhi, barefoot workers manually break up ships, exposing themselves to toxins including asbestos and lead. As workers without protective gear toiled on one hulk recently, explosive gas cylinders scavenged from other dying vessels lay about nearby. “This is not shipbreaking, this is international hazardous waste trade,” says Gopal Krishna, founder of ToxicsWatch Alliance, a nonprofit activist group. “This is transfer of toxics from developed nations to a developing nation.”

In 2014 as many as 181 European ships were beached in Alang, says Shipbreaking Platform, which compiles the data from ship buyers, other nonprofits, and maritime databases. As many as 27 of them changed flags before entering Indian waters, it says. Ships entering India included oil and chemical tankers, according to Gujarat government data obtained by Bloomberg.

Fatal accidents are common in Alang. One morning last June, five workers were breaking up a chemical tanker when a blast near the ship’s engine room killed them. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi halved the tax on ships imported to be broken up, potentially boosting the $2 billion industry that left at least 21 workers dead in 2014.

More than 130 shipbreakers operate at Alang, monitored by 12 safety inspectors. The EU requires that shipbreakers use gear such as cranes and provide medical care for workers. But Indian companies say their safety standards are adequate. “We have our own safety mechanism in place, which is good enough,” says Kanakiya of India’s ship recycling association. “What the EU demands is completely unnecessary, and that will involve a lot of capital spending, which can make us economically unviable.”

The Federation of Ship Recycling Associations, a group of ship recyclers from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, will meet in Singapore in March to jointly oppose the EU ban, it said in a statement.

The bottom line: European Union ships are barred from using India’s Alang beach for ship demolition, but many sidestep the restrictions.

Source: BloomberyBusiness

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7 thoughts on “IATP Weekly News Roundup Blog 19/02/2015

  1. OMG, the HSE web app a little knowledge is dangerous, i wonder if the environment agency has seen the guidance it gives for the waste asbestos?

  2. I cannot believe that HSE really can say that 2 hours of DIY working with Asbestos is safe. This is so dangerous as It only takes one fiber to cause mesothelioma 30/40 years on. What about Insurance as they wont agree to that advice. You fail to say that you have to double wrap the Asbestos and that it is hard to dispose of it so take small amounts to a Asbestos disposal Station.
    You really have to rethink this and you have thought about this. Asbestos needs to be handled by the experts.

  3. I am totally horrified by this new ‘app’.
    For years I’ve been telling tradespeople how dangerous asbestos is and this app contradicts every safety aspect going. Drilling AIB? Licensed contractors are advised against power tools so why is it now ok for the public to do this? This is crazy. A very sad day for the people who have faught so hard. HSE? What a joke.

  4. FACT: There is no safe minimum where asbestos is concerned.
    So on what science is the 2 hour limit based?

    FACT: too many people have died for too long based on inadequate guidelines.

    HSE you have a chance to put this right don’t waste it

  5. Mavis keep up the good work.On a more sober note these outfit’s are formed to take the heat off the industry, in Canada we have WCB site they advocate for free testing for asbestos but what most people do not understand when you take their free test you automatically fall under the WCB act, the employer is protected from lawsuit hell even your doctor is protected under this act.

    The WCB of Canada were involved in the coverup of how deadly this product was for years the fox now is trying to convince the chickens that they are really good guys just looking out for their best interest!

  6. In principal this is a good idea. However there is no reference to the legal requirement to be trained or wear appropriate FFP3 mask with face fit testing. Those two items alone would protect even an idiot (although possibly not those around him)

    I really can’t believe that senior sources within the HSE have allowed this APP out in its current format. I think they are potentially leaving themselves open to criticism and worse, culpability if someone is exposed to asbestos because of the omissions in this APP

  7. I cannot believe what I am reading!! There is definitely no safe level of exposure to asbestos, FACT!! My husband was diagnosed with Mesothelioma 2 years ago at the age of 36 and has no clue where or how he was exposed to asbestos and therefore it must have been a very minor exposure!! The stuff is wrecking enough lives already, please PLEASE change the app and issue warnings about it being incorrect ASAP!!

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