The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Transport and Environment (T&E) have criticized Maersk Group’s decision to beach their end-of-life vessels in Alang, India, as the Danish shipping company aims to cut its ship recycling costs.
Namely, Maersk announced that it wants to upgrade the facilities and practices at recycling yards in Alang as it plans to recycle more vessels in the future adding that the current cost of sustainable ship recycling “is not feasible”.
According to the Platform, Maersk was previously guided by a progressive policy on ship recycling: its old vessels were dismantled in modern ship recycling facilities in either China, Turkey or Europe, while the company’s latest decision undermines European efforts to improve global conditions.
“Maersk estimates they can realise an additional 1-2 million USD per ship by onselling to dismantling companies in India. It is hypocritical to see Maersk’s engagement in India presented proudly in the company’s CSR Report as one that aims at promoting higher standards. The fact is that they are already selling ships now to facilities that operate under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe – they admit themselves that the decision to go to India is primarily taken to make their financial report look better,” Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said.
The Platform had welcomed Maersk’s initial idea to set up a long-term cooperation with stakeholders in India provided that the objective was to set up a modern ship recycling facility in line with the safety and environmental requirements set out by the European Ship Recycling Regulation.
“However, the hasty decision to sell off end-of-life vessels to Alang shows that the decision is merely driven by profits. In times of low freight rates, Maersk intends to boost its profits by selling to yards that do not comply with European standards,” the Platform added.
All yards in Alang dismantle vessels in the intertidal zone. This means that ships are broken in an unprotected marine environment. Environmental concerns remain linked to the abrasion of toxic paints during the beaching process and when cut-off blocks and hulls are winched further up the beach, oil spills and the release of slag and paints chips into the water, and the debris created by the gravity method when blocks crash down on the intertidal zone.
“We expected visionary leadership from Maersk and that their CSR report boasted support for the setting up of a truly modern ship recycling facility in India. Instead they are rubberstamping practices that they previously denounced,” Heidegger said.