Politicians deciding on rules for scrapping old ships got a timely reminder when a sculpture, made from the remains of ships taken from Indian shipbreaking yards, was delivered to delegates attending the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meeting in London.
Activists deliver a sculpture made from the remains of ships taken from Indian shipbreaking yards to delegates attending the International Maritime Organisation in London.
The sculpture was made from the funnels of five old ships, one
of which, the Greek owned Amina, exploded in the yard, killing nine
people and causing over a dozen serious injuries. The sculpture
serves as a reminder of the human and environmental toll caused by
current shipbreaking practices. The Amina exploded in Alang, India,
in February 2003 because it contained hazardous gas and other toxic
substances. However the Greek owner, Chandris, still refuses to
take any responsibility for not cleaning the ship before hand. Only
mandatory rules will help prevent tragedies like this in the
The IMO sets legally binding rules for the shipping industry.
This week it will address the current practice of dealing with
end-of-life vessels. Even today old ships are being sent to Asia
and to other developing countries containing hazardous substances
which routinely risk the lives and health of local people and
destroys their environment.
"With this sculpture we want to make clear that this lethal
business of sending toxic ships to Asia and elsewhere without
cleaning them first must stop. Currently voluntary measures
proposed by the IMO will not protect the people or the environment.
Some ship owners and others in the shipping industry have told us
that they too want mandatory rules to provide a level playing
field. We call on the IMO to establish a legally binding regime to
deal with this business, which is a form of waste trade," said
Ramapati Kumar, from Greenpeace in India.
The ships sent for scrapping often contain substances such as
asbestos, PCB's and oil known to damage human health and the
environment. In addition the presence of other substances, such as
fuel or gases in tanks increases the risk of explosion and other
accidents putting the safety of workers at risk.
The ship owners currently continue to send vessels for breaking
full of hazardous substances, which would normally not allowed to
be traded according to the international waste trade laws. We
believe that unless the ships are decontaminated prior to their
arrival at shipbreaking yards, the shipping industry is, in
practice, breaking established principles of international law.
We know current voluntary proposals are not enough to prevent
pollution or to improve the dangerous working conditions in
shipbreaking yards. Effective prevention of pollution takes place
only when hazardous substances are removed from end-of-life
vessels. This needs to be mandatory and consistent with
international waste trade laws.
The meeting ended Friday with agreed guidelines that fall short
fully cleaning up the ship breaking business.
Recently a delegation of people involved in shipbreaking in Asia
toured Europe to call for an urgent solution to the environmental
and health problems associated with the industry. Read about
the experiences on the tour and view the pictures.