Turkey does the right thing - refuses to accept toxic ship

IMO struggles to address shipbreaking issue

Press release - 16 July, 2003

The NOVOCHERKASSK under tow by the EUROSUND tug bound for shipbreaking in Turkey.

Turkey has denied the Ukranian end-of-life vessel, Novocherkassk, access into Turkish waters on the grounds that hazardous substances on board had not been removed. The old ship had been destined for the local shipbreaking yard in Aliaga.

Greenpeace welcomed the unprecedented move by Turkish authorities, which occurred as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was concluding its second day of discussions on international regulations for shipbreaking without major progress.

"Turkey has done the right thing by sending this ship back to the exporting country and demanding the removal of the hazardous substances, prior to export for scrapping. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the IMO. In failing to regulate end-of- life vessels exported to developing countries to be cleaned of hazardous materials, the IMO is effectively covering up a trade in hazardous wastes, illegal under the Basel Convention, " said Greenpeace campaginer Erdem Vardar in Turkey.

Turkey joins an increasing number of countries taking action to protect the environment and workers from the pollution caused when hazardous substances are released during shipbreaking. Recently The Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Belgium have acted to prevent the export or import of hazardous wastes on board end- of-life vessels.

While individual countries try to do the right thing, the IMO, whose role is to protect the environment and people from the adverse impacts of the shipping industry, are failing to establish clear binding guidelines to control shipbreaking.

"This action by Turkey increases the pressure on the IMO to take the necessary measures consistent with the requirements under the Basel Convention to prevent environmental pollution and health impacts related to the breaking of toxic ships.Despite the growing recognition by some shipowners and countries that the Basel Convention applies to end-of-life ships, the IMO still fails to provide the necessary guidance to shipowners, flag and port states," said Marietta Harjono from the Greenpeace delegation present at the IMO meeting.

The IMO meeting continues till Friday, JULY 18.

Notes: (1) Each year 600 vessels like Novocherkassk are scrapped for recycling, mostly in developing countries where the costs in human lives and environmental damage is unacceptable. About 100 ships are scrapped in Turkey every year with half coming from European companies. The costs for scrapping ships in Turkey are lower than in Europe because the basic requirements for the protection of people and the environment are not met at shipbreaking yards.