British ships sent to India for scrap while US ghost fleet denied entry to UK

Press release - 12 November, 2003
As the British government continues to refuse permits for scrapping the first of the controversial US navy "ghost ships" which arrive in the UK today, Greenpeace has uncovered British vessels being shipped to India - contravening international agreements and in breach of national laws in India. While controversy rages in Europe over the now infamous "ghost ships", Britain and other European countries are quietly transporting their waste ships to developing countries - in breach of the Basel Convention (1)

Greenpeace activists protest in front of the two illegal ships from the United Kingdom bound for shipbreaking in India, which include known toxic substances on board.

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior has tracked the end-of-life vessel GENOVA BRIDGE to Alang, India - the world's largest ship breaking yard. Greenpeace demands that the British owner and the British authorities ensure that the toxic materials onboard of this ship will be removed safely and taken back to England for final disposal. Greenpeace has informed the Minister of Environment and Forests of India, of this gross violation of International conventions and Indian legislation by a UK shipping company.

"This is a classic case of double standards. While the UK authorities don't want US waste in their backyard, they are happy to illegally dump their own elsewhere - failing to ensure safe removal of toxic substances and safe conditions for the workers in the developing world. We demand that the UK government apply the same international rules to their illegal export of toxic ships to India, as they apply to the illegal import of the Ghostfleet to the UK." said Ramapati Kumar, Ship-breaking campaigner onboard Rainbow Warrior at Alang. (2)

The international community has recognised that the environmental pollution from shipbreaking is a serious concern but fails to address the issue seriously. End-of-life-ships are waste and this means that their export is regulated under the Basel Convention. The international maritime authorities do not accept the notion that end-of-life-ships are waste.

The IMO is not only failing to protect the environment and poor workers in ship breaking yards, but it is also trying to expel Greenpeace from the organisation (3).

"The inability of the IMO to address this issue conclusively is no longer acceptable. When the IMO's General Assembly meets later this month, it needs to conclude that the illegal export of toxic end-of-life-ships will be stopped. Any other conclusion will show the inability of the IMO to deal with current marine and environmental issues. It should also reverse its decision to expel Greenpeace, failure to do so will be a clear demonstration that the organisation is more interested in listening to the vested interests of the shipping industry rather than the voice which is trying to ensure the protection of the environment and human lives." said Paul Horsman of Greenpeace International.

The Rainbow Warrior is in India on a Corporate Accountability tour, in a bid to expose corporations that are committing crime against nature and humanity. The first phase of the tour is focused on the on Ship-breaking at Alang, Gujarat.

Notes: (1)The Basel Convention - The Open Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention concluded at its recent meeting that: a ship may become waste, in accordance with article 2 of the Basel Convention, and that at the same time it may be defined as a ship under other international rules.(2) 17665 dwt ro/ro sailing under St. Vincent & Grenadines flag, owned by V. Ships Commercial, London. A total of eleven ships has been sold by UK ship owners for scrap in Asia during 2003. Read more on Greenpeace has had observer status at the IMO since 1991. At its recent council meeting in June, the IMO decided to expel Greenpeace following complaints from some member states against protests activities. The final decision on Greenpeace's status will be decided at the forthcoming IMO Assembly.