NGO Shipbreaking Platform: ECSA Feigns Ignorance about Alang Beaching Method

The European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) has ignored shortcomings of the beaching method at the Alang shipbreaking yards in India, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said with reference to ECSA’s report on its visit to the yards last April.

According to this coalition, the beaching method is unable to ensure containment of pollutants and to guarantee occupational safety.

In addition, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said ECSA has been echoing “the yard owners’ one-sided account of working and living conditions in Alang”.

“There are no solutions provided to the serious concerns we have raised with ECSA, and no demands for improvement. The true intent is to gain support for the most convenient solution for ship owners: the continuation of the low-cost method of beaching that allows for maximum profit for shipping lines,”  Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said.

The damaging environmental impacts of breaking ships in the intertidal zone of a beach are well-known – slag, toxic paint particles and debris including metal scrap and plastics are released into the environment when the ship is torched and large metal pieces are simply dropped onto the sand or into the sea, the coalition said.

Namely, all yards in Alang conduct the primary cutting of the ship in the intertidal zone. ECSA argues that pollution in the intertidal zone can be controlled by only letting ‘clean’ blocks fall into the sea or onto the beach. However, ECSA does not explain how blocks are actually ‘cleaned’ and where the chemicals necessary in this process end up, the coalition said in the response.

The contamination by toxic anti-fouling paints that are accumulated in the sediments is completely ignored by ECSA, as are the difficulties of preventing and remediating oil spills in the intertidal zone, according to NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“Even though the association knows that Indian law allows for the resale of asbestos-containing material and that there is no incinerator for PCBs in India, ECSA simply trusts that the yard owners will ensure environmentally sound waste management on a voluntary basis, even if this creates higher costs for the yards,” the coalition said.

ECSA did not consult trade unions or researches who have looked into these qustions, but it “blindly trust the yard owners who misleadingly portray obligations they actually have as employers under Indian law anyway as laudable corporate social responsibility,” the coalition added.

Moreover, ECSA failed to put in focus workers’ welfare and the fact that there is no functional hospital in the close vicinity of Alang, but only a rudimentary first aid center, according to the coalition.

If European ship owners really want to be a driving force for sustainable development in India then why do they not ensure investment in and knowledge transfer for state-of-the-art ship recycling off the beach?” Heidegger said.

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