Industry scuttles progress on safe ship disposal

Press release - 17 February, 2005
Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network (BAN) condemned the special joint United Nations meeting (1) on shipbreaking as an utter failure today. The meeting was hijacked by the shipping industry interests throughout, blocking any attempts to clean up the practice of exporting toxic laden vessels to Asia, risking the health of workers and the environment. Attempts to ensure coordination build on existing international law and find practical solutions also failed.

"The meeting could be called a' victory' for "dumping-as-usual" - and a source of temporary satisfaction for a shipping industry that does not wish to change its ways, and for those states that support this irresponsible industry - most notably Norway, Japan, and Greece," said Kevin Stairs of Greenpeace International. "But for sustainable development, for environmental justice, for producer responsibility, for the spirit of cooperation, for even beginning to actually reduce the flows of toxic waste to the poorest communities on earth - it was a total failure."

Among the missed opportunities cited, the meeting:

* Refused to recognize existing international law (e.g. Basel Convention) and resulting case law forbidding the export of toxic ships

* Proposed nothing that will lead to programmes that will see more ships broken or pre-cleaned in developed countries (e.g. Europe, or North America)

* Failed to provide any direction for investors to promote pre-cleaning and green shipbreaking facilities

* Refused to recommend a global ship recycling fund based on the producer responsibility principle

* Refused proposals to operate in a transparent way, and gave ship owners voting power on the committee, while preventing environmental NGOs from participating as members.

* Failed to mend any fences between the International Maritime Organization and the Basel Convention

* Failed to discuss the human rights aspects of the meeting.

* Proposed nothing that will actually reduce even one kilo of the amount of PCBs and asbestos that currently moves by the hundreds of tonnes each year to Asia.

In October 2004 the Basel Convention (2) reiterated that waste ships fall under the Convention. The need for the signatories of the Convention to clean up the industry is all the more urgent with the European deadlines for phasing out over a thousand single hulled tankers only a matter of months away. (3)

According to environmentalists, the IMO delegates allied with the shipping industry held sway over the meeting with Norway at the helm, holding two of the three chair positions, effectively blocking most of the recommendations made by Basel delegates or non-governmental organizations.

"Instead of a spirit of cooperation, we got an ugly show of strength from one of the most powerful industries in the world," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network. "It is clear that the real solutions to the problem will not be found at IMO, but with the 163 countries who made a commitment to the Basel Convention principle of minimizing transboundary movement of hazardous waste through pre-cleaning, strict controls, and the promotion of green ship design. "

VVPR info: A copy of the report "The Ship Recycling Fund" can be found at: For more information schipbreaking, and conflicts between IMO and Basel Convention see: and and

Notes: (1) Meeting of the joint International Maritime Organisation, Basel Convention and International Labour Organisation Committee on Ship Breaking(2) The Basel Convention was created to prevent the dumping of toxic wastes from rich to poorer countries. It calls for minimizing the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and has passed a decision to ban all such exports from developed to developing countries. (3) See Greenpeace report "destination unknown, single hull oil tanker no place to go" found at: