The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is urging German authorities to hold Atlantic Container Line (ACL), a subsidiary of the Italian Grimaldi Group, accountable for alleged breach of European waste laws.
In a letter sent to the German authorities, the Platform said that the company purposely sold two of its G3 ConRo vessels, Swedish-flagged Atlantic Cartier and Atlantic Conveyor for scrapping in South Asia, illegally exporting toxic waste.
“The German competent authorities were alerted about the imminent illegal export of the ships from the port of Hamburg and prompted to take action to stop the vessels from departing. Despite the warnings and the clear signs that the ships were destined for scrap, the authorities did not halt the ships. The Atlantic Cartier arrived in Alang, India, on the 20th of September, and the Atlantic Conveyor hit the beach on the 7th of October, after vessel tracking providers curiously indicated that the container carrier was “Steaming 4 Sunshine”,” the Platform said.
According to the German port authorities, there was no evidence base for the arrest of the vessels, despite the fact that the logos on both ships had been painted over before the final voyage.
As informed by the organization, authorities from Canada and the UK, countries through which the two ships sailed before arriving in Hamburg for their last EU port call, also knew that the ships had been sold to the beach.
According to the Platform, once having left the EU, both vessels operated for a short while in South-Eastern Africa – still under the same name, flag and ownership – “waiting for the attention on them to fade.”
During that time, ACL contacted the Swedish authorities asking for advice on which steps should be taken if the company decided to recycle the ships, only to be told to scrap the vessels in the EU or in an OECD country.
However, the NGO claims that there was no way to ensure that these recommendations would be followed, since at that point the ships were no longer in the EU.
“Rather, it is clear that this communication was a way for ACL to make it seem like the company had acted diligently by seeking advice from the flag-state, as well as to fraudulently make it seem as the decision to dispose of the container carriers was only taken once outside of EU waters,” the Platform further noted.
“The fact that ACL contacted the Swedish authorities in August – while the ships were trading in Africa – asking for recommendations on how best to scrap the vessels, is a clear indication that ACL was aware of the rules stipulated within the WSR and that ACL knew at that point it was too late for any authority to prevent the ships from being beached,” Ingvild Jenssen Director and Founder NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said.
Moreover, the sale of the two sister ships for breaking in the summer was announced by ACL itself on the cash-buyer GMS’ website last year. As explained, end-of-life sales to South Asian yards are done with the help of a cash-buyer, a company specialized in trading end-of-life vessels.
Based on the organization’s data, more than 90 Italian-owned end-of-life vessels had been sent to dirty and dangerous scrapping yards in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in the last seven years.
” In 2016 the Platform advised the Italian Ship Owners Association, including representatives of Grimaldi Group, to stop selling their end-of-life vessels to unscrupulous cash buyers, and urged the Italian ship owners to ensure the safe and environmentally sound recycling of their ships. Hence, it is clear that the Platform’s message has not been taken into consideration,” the NGO concluded.
In addition, the organization said that it has also recorded a sharp increase in the number of German-owned ships being sold to the beaches in South Asia. In 2016, 97 German-owned ships were beached; many as a result of bankruptcy of ship funds where courts ordered the sale of ships.
According to Jenssen, it is unacceptable that court decisions on bankruptcy cases in shipping “do not take into account the human and environmental costs of the sale of ships for dirty and dangerous scrapping. “
ACL is yet to provide World Maritime News with a comment on the matter.