Western European companies dump toxic ships on Turkish beach

Greenpeace holds EU partly responsible for poisoning

Press release - 14 January, 2002

Seventeen Greenpeace activists were arrested this morning after unfolding a banner that said “Stop Toxic Shipbreaking” on board of a Swiss ship, “Star of Venice”, which they had occupied at a shipbreaking yard in Aliaga, Turkey. They demanded an end to the poisonous practice of scrapping ships containing toxic materials, including asbestos, on Turkish beaches. Before the Turkish police made their arrest and confiscated one of the inflatable boats, the activists painted a text that said “No Toxic Ship Trade” on a side of another old ship, “Best”, which originated from Greece.(1) Greenpeace investigation of the shipyards located close to Izmir confirms that shipbreaking practice in Turkey is comparable to the ones in China, India and Bangladesh, resulting in serious toxic pollution, such as dioxin, endangering the workers and the environment.(2)

At least 50 percent of the ships being scrapped in Turkey come from Western European operators. Greenpeace called for the European Union (EU) to clean-up its own act by demanding its ship industry remove hazardous substances from ships prior to their export at the same time when it enforces high environmental and health standards on the EU applicant countries, such as Turkey.

“It is unacceptable that the shipping industry gets away with passing hazardous waste to countries like Turkey leaving the people and the environment exposed to the most dangerous substances known to mankind. The EU is in a rather schizophrenic position as it aims to enforce high environmental standards on EU applicants but allows, at the same time, the dumping of toxic waste to its own ‘backyard´,” said Erdem Vardar, Toxic Waste Trade Campaigner for Greenpeace Mediterranean. Up to hundred ships are scrapped every year in Turkey, which has so far failed to implement its ban on imports of hazardous waste (3). Greenpeace is not against scrapping of vessels but wants to ensure that their export is not used as an excuse to dump toxic waste. Greenpeace demands that dumping of toxics ships- for-scrap should be considered as a violation of the international Basel Ban, which is currently being discussed in a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland (4).

“The situation in the shipbreaking yards on the beaches of Turkey is not better than in India or China," says Marietta Harjono, Greenpeace´s shipbreaking expert on board of Greenpeace´s flagship Rainbow Warrior. “We found materials containing asbestos at the yard and at the open dumpsite, where villagers from nearby settlements are searching for valuable materials. The health of the people and the environment are at grave risk”.

Greenpeace today launched a new website listing 50 ships destined to sail to one of the shipbreaking yards in Asia in the near future. Most of these ships belong to Swiss, Greek, Italian, English and Scandinavian companies but the list includes operators from almost all EU countries as well as Australian and US ones. Greenpeace signalled to the industry that it intends to watch these vessels and urge their owners to clean them before export.

Notes: (1) “Star of Venice”, company Pan Nautic (Switzerland) and “Best”, company Daglia (Greece) Greenpeace Report on Environmental, Health and Safety Conditions in Aliaga Shipbreaking Yards, Izmir, Turkey, can be downloaded from: http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/reports/shipbreaking.pdf Asbestos was often in ships because of the non-burning quality, isolation power and because it is chemically neutral. During breaking of ships asbestos is released. Even low concentrations of asbestos dust causes formation of scar-like tissues resulting in permanent breathing difficulties (asbestosis); it is also carcinogenic. Dioxin is regarded as one of the most toxic substances human has ever released into the environment, and it is highly carcinogenic. (3) With the “Regulation to Control Hazardous Wastes (27.08.1995 no. 22387) ”, Turkey banned the importation of hazardous waste in 1995. Under this Regulation the importation of ships-for-scrap containing hazardous waste is also considered as hazardous waste and is therefore violation of the ban (Ministry of Environment 2001). (4) The “Basel Convention on The Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal” and “Basel Ban” bans the export of hazardous wastes from OECD countries to non-OECD countries. Turkey has become a party to the “Basel Convention on The Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal” on December 20th 1994.