Shipowners continue to avoid green ship recycling, says NGO

Environmental and labour laws that regulated ship recycling were still being ignored by shipowners, which continue to send their vessels to dirty scrapyards in South Asia, claims environmental shipping group NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Data released on Tuesday February 2nd by NGO Shipbreaking Platform stated that 630 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were sold to the scrapyards in 2020. Of these, 446 large tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships were broken down on three beaches in South Asia. NGO noted that this made up nearly 90% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.

Sadly, the situation was little improved on 2019, when 469 out of 674 vessels and offshore units were broken down on the three beaches, which are in Alang in India, Chattogram in Bangladesh, and Gadani in Pakistan.

Ingvild Jenssen, Executive Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said that “it is a scandal that laws and standards aimed at protecting people and the environment are ignored when scrapping the near totality of the global fleet. Governments, the clients, financiers and insurers of shipping, as well as the employees of shipping, need to take a much stronger stance against this exploitation of vulnerable communities and fragile ecosystems,”

She noted that at least 10 workers lost their lives when working on shipbreaking in Bangladesh. At least another 14 were severely injured. NGO said that it had tried several times to obtain official statistics, but no information on accidents at the Indian and Pakistani yards had been made available.

NGO Shipbreaking Platform said end-of-life vessels were often sold to cash buyers who typically re-name, re-register and re-flag the vessels on their last voyage to the beaching yards.

The group noted that almost half of the ships sold to South Asia in 2020 had changed flag to Comoros, Palau or St Kitts & Nevis just weeks before they were beached. “At least 14 of these flag changes enabled ship owners to circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation”, claimed NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“Whist European shipping companies own 40% of the world fleet, only 5% of end-of-life ships were registered under an EU/EFTA flag in 2020. Flags known for their poor implementation of maritime law have always been particularly popular at end-of-life. Ship owners hiding behind anonymous post box companies set up by cash buyers and backed by blacklisted flag registries is a reality that begs for the introduction and enforcement of measures that effectively hold the real beneficial owners of the vessels responsible,” Jenssen said.

The news was not all bad. NGO Shipbreaking Platform congratulated Carnival Corp for best ship recycling practice. A Carnival spokesperson said that “our highest responsibility and top priorities are to be in compliance everywhere we operate in the world, to protect the environment and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, the people in the communities we visit and our shipboard and shoreside employees. This commitment holds true for every stage of the life and retirement cycle for each of our ships”.

Full details of which countries and which shipowners were alleged to have sent the most tonnage to the South Asian beaches is published at: