Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Shipping Company Fined for Illegally Scrapping Refrigerated Cargo Vessels

Ship Owners Beware! Disgusting Trade Censured by Dutch Court
Shipping News Feature
NETHERLANDS – SOUTH ASIA – The Rotterdam District Court has sentenced, under aupices of the EU Waste Shipment Regulations, shipping company Seatrade and two of its Directors, for the illegal export of vessels sent for scrapping on the beaches of South Asia. Seatrade and the directors have been fined up to €750,000 and two of its executives have also been banned from holding a position of Director, Commissioner, Advisor or employee of a shipping company for one year.

The European ship management company has been held criminally liable for having sold 4 refrigerated cargo vessels for scrap, in 2012, to substandard shipbreaking yards in India, Bangladesh and Turkey, where, as widely acknowledged and according to the Prosecutor, ‘current ship dismantling methods endanger the lives and health of workers and pollute the environment’. The Prosecutor’s request that the Seatrade Executives face prison was only waived in light of this being the first time such criminal charges had been pressed.

This ground-breaking judgement sets a European-wide precedent for holding ship owners accountable for knowingly selling vessels, via shady cash-buyers, for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximise profits. Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of environmental, human and labour rights organisations, aiming to prevent toxic end-of-life ships from being beached in developing countries, commented:

“We strongly welcome the judgement of the Rotterdam Court. The ruling sends a clear-cut message that dirty and dangerous scrapping will no longer be tolerated.”

In 2013, Shipbreaking Platform revealed Seatrade’s sale of the Spring Bear and Spring Bob to respectively Indian and Bangladeshi breakers. The Dutch Prosecutor additionally involved the scrapping of the Spring Panda and Spring Deli in Turkey, and the Court's ruling is based on international laws governing the export of hazardous waste and the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The Regulation prohibits EU Member States from exporting hazardous waste to countries outside the OECD, as well as requiring a prior informed consent for such exports.

The ships concerned were variously flagged in Liberia, the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands (2). Seatrade only actually admits to actually owning any of its fleet on a remote part of its website, speaking only of ‘ship management’ but the Court evidently established the true situation and meanwhile Seatrade is reportedly currently considering appealing the decision by the Court. According to Shipbreaking Platform, 835 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to the scrap yards in 2017. 543 were broken down, by hand, on the tidal beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to 80.3% of all tonnage dismantled globally.

As we have reported many times previously the beaches of South Asia see a disgusting trade where poor and unskilled migrant workers are deployed by the thousands to break down the ships manually. The ships are full of toxic materials such as asbestos, lead, PCBs and heavy metals, and little care is given to worker safety or protection of the environment. The toxic wastes sicken the workers and ravage coastal ecosystems, and because the muddy sand and shifting grounds of tidal beaches cannot support heavy lifting equipment or safety gear, accidents injure or kill hundreds of workers each year.

Photo: The Spring Bear as she was.