Toxic Trade News / 15 May 2009
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New "Ship Recycling" Convention Legalizes Scrapping Toxic Ships on Beaches of Poor Countries – "A major step backwards"
Media Release
15 May 2009 (Hong Kong) – At a United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting this morning, human rights, labour and environmental organisations denounced a newly adopted international Convention on Ship Recycling as a failure, saying it would perpetuate hazardous and polluting shipbreaking on the beaches of the world's poorest countries[1], while obstructing transitions to safer and greener forms of ship recycling.

“The new Convention on ship recycling adopted today won't stop a single toxic ship from being broken on the beach of a developing country,” said Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, a global coalition of of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to stop the human rights and environmental abuses of shipbreaking. “The Convention legitimises the infamous breaking yards of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and actually rewards these exploitive operations while punishing those companies that have invested in safer and cleaner methods.”

This week the IMO member states rejected a proposal supported by 107 environmental and human rights organisations around the world to phase out deadly and polluting beaching operations.[2] Instead, the new Convention on Ship Recycling will encourage and put a legal rubberstamp on the flow of toxic end-of-life ships to poor countries. The Platform gave the convention failing marks for:

  • failing to uphold the principle of the international hazardous waste trade law, the Basel Convention, by permitting companies to export toxic end-of-life ships to developing companies without first pre-cleaning them of toxic materials;

  • legitimizing the fatally flawed beaching method of scrapping toxic ships on ocean beaches, a practice that would never be allowed in developed countries;

  • neglecting provisions to substitute hazardous materials used in shipbuilding with safer existing alternatives; and

  • rejecting funding mechanisms, such as a mandatory ship owners fund, to internalize costs with the polluters and to support use of safer and cleaner operations.

“When the workers and the environment of developing countries desperately needed a life ring, the IMO threw them useless paper," said Rizwana Hasan, of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and 2009 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, in a final Platform speech before the Conference.[3] “This issue of shipbreaking should be taken away from the IMO as they have proven they are not competent to handle global waste management nor occupational health and safety issues.”

The NGO Platform vowed to take the issue next to the doorstep of the European Union (EU), who is due to propose EU legislation on ship recycling later this year, and to other forward thinking countries. They also will forge partnerships with leaders of the recycling and other industries using shipping to promote Green and Safe Ship Recycling and to avoid those using beach breaking operations.

“The fight for environmental justice in the shipping industry is far from over,” said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network, “When political leadership fails us at the global level, its time to pressure the marketplace by sending customers to the green ship recyclers and to isolate the low-road operators.”



[1] Powerful shipping owner interests have dominated negotiations for new international rules on ship recycling. Owners of end-of-life ships reap a financial windfall by selling end-of-life ships for up to ten million dollars each to yards with beach scrapping operations in South Asia. Over 80 percent of the global fleet of end-of-life ships are run ashore and broken by hand on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where labour is cheap and workers rights and pollution laws weak, lacking or not-enforced. There, the workers have a high rate of accidents, losing life and limb, and of occupational disease from hazardous materials contained in the ships, such as PCBs or asbestos. The soft sands of beaching operations cannot support hazardous lifting equipment, emergency access or contain pollution from entering the marine environment. The International Labour Organisation has called the breaking of ships on beaches to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

[2] Civil Society Statement of Concern

[3] Final Platform Speech by Rizwana Hasan.

• NGO Platform briefing Paper for IMO Convention
“Off the Beach” Pamphlet

For photographs and video of protest funeral march and a video news release visit:

User: Videoshare, Password: uzooshat, folder: ActionShipbreaking

Other Websites:

For more information contact:


Ingvild Jenssen, +32 485.190.920,
Rizwana Hasan, + 880 1711526066,
Jim Puckett, +852 53168655,

Media coordinator:

Helen Perivier, +852 66711329,

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Basel Action Network is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Select images courtesy of Chris Jordan