A total of 674 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were sold to the scrapyards in 2019, according to new data released by NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
Of these vessels, 469 large tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships were broken down on only three beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to near 90% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.
“Bangladesh remains the favoured dumping ground for end-of-life ships laden with toxins. There is wide-spread knowledge of the irreparable damage caused by dirty and dangerous practices on tidal mudflats, yet profit is the only decisive factor for most ship owners when selling their vessels for breaking,” Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, commented.
Last year, at least 26 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. The platform documented accidents that killed 24 workers on the beach of Chattogram, making 2019 the worst year for Bangladeshi yards in terms of fatalities since 2010.
At least another 34 workers were severely injured. Whilst the total death toll in Indian yards is unknown, local sources and media confirmed at least two deaths at shipbreaking yards that claim to be operating safely but have failed to be included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities.
The worst dumping practices
According to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the United Arab Emirates and Greece top the list of country dumpers in 2019. UAE owners were responsible for 45 ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards in 2019. Greek owners closely followed with 40 beached vessels.
Furthermore, the platform named the worst corporate dumper in 2019 – the Taiwanese shipping company Evergreen. The company has been repeatedly selling its ships for dirty and dangerous breaking in Bangladesh.
Other companies that were dumping their toxic ships on South Asian beaches include Berge Bulk, Maersk, Costamare, CMA CGM, Diamond Offshore, ENSCO, MOL, MSC, NYK, Tidewater and Vale, the platform added.
“Clean and safe solutions are already available. We applaud companies, such as Dutch Van Oord, that have had a responsible ship recycling policy ‘off the beach’ for many years. Whilst other ship owners lament over the lack of capacity to recycle sustainably, only 31 vessels were recorded recycled in EU-approved facilities, which represent a minor fraction of what these yards are able to handle,” Nicola Mulinaris, Communication and Policy Officer of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said.