UN International Maritime Organisation fails to heed warnings

Ship breaking will continue to cause pollution and death

Press release - 5 December, 2003
The UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) failed to protect people and the oceans from bad shipping practices today. Although guidelines on ship recycling were adopted, they are only voluntary so the shipping industry can continue exporting toxic ships for scrap and avoid proper regulation.

“Today´s failure by the IMO to establish an international law to stop the shipping industry exporting toxic ships for scrap means that sensitive marine ecosystems in Asia will continue to be polluted and the lives of the people who scrap ships will still be endangered,” said Greenpeace campaigner, Marietta Harjono, speaking from the IMO meeting in London.

Greenpeace has been monitoring ship scrapping practices and conducting research at ship breaking yards for several years. A new report released by Greenpeace today, “Playing hide and seek” (1), shows that voluntary guidelines on ship recycling do not work and reinforces the need for international, mandatory guidelines on ship breaking. It documents numerous cases in which ship owners have sent vessels containing toxic materials to Asia for scrap in spite of the voluntary guidelines on ship breaking.

Turkey and India, two countries that have experienced the pollution caused by the scrapping of toxic ships, this week called on the IMO to set up mandatory rules to compel ship owners to clean ships before they scrapped. Their call was blocked by several countries that were protecting the interests of the shipping industry, such as Panama and Liberia. Greenpeace has found that most end-of-life ships fly so called ‘Flags of Convenience´, provided by these countries, when they make their final voyage to ship breaking yards. (2)

“The shipping industry, protected by these countries, just wants to export its pollution at the lowest possible cost. It is apparently unconcerned that it is dumping hazardous waste on Asia and appears not to care that people often die in accidents caused by their uncleaned ships (3). This week, the IMO has made it clear that it´s willing to stand by and let this illegal practice continue," (4) said Ramapati Kumar, on board the Rainbow Warrior which is currently in India tracking the import of toxic ships for scrap.

Notes: (1) See "Playing hide and seek", on www.greenpeaceweb.org/shipbreak. The report lists an overview of the top 20 polluters and an overview of the Flags of Convenience used for the final voyage of a ship to the breaking yard. It also shows that ship owners are not taking the measures necessary to avoid pollution and to save lives, as promoted by the voluntary Code of Practice. (2) The Flag of Convenience system allows ship owners to register vessels in countries other than the country in which they reside in order to avoid binding national regulations or national obligations under international treaties.(3)During one incident in Alang, India, this year 9 people were killed and 16 seriously injured when the tanker, Amina exploded while it was being scrapped. (4) It is illegal to export hazardous waste from OECD to non-OECD countries under the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment.