The Danish Shipowners' Association will not do as the Norwegian industry peers and banish beaching, the highly criticized method in which vessels are dragged onto beaches in Asia to be scrapped.
The Norwegian Shipowners' Association announced on Monday that the country's shipowners as the first in the world will banish beaching in Asia with the aim to avoid irresponsible scrapping. The Danish Shipowners' Association agrees that this should be avoided, but the means are not correct, they say.
"We agree that as an industry we neither can or will accept unjustifiable conditions at the scrapping facilities. But as we see it, the picture is more nuanced than just talking geography," says Maria Bruun Skipper.
The Norwegian Shipowners' Association confirmed to ShippingWatch that the association will ensure that the members do not make use of the scrapping yards in South Asia, including the infamous yards in Alang.
Maria Bruun Skipper explains that the yards in Alang should not all be judged in unison.
"You have to go in and look at each individual yard, because its not just "beaching" as a method or as it occurs in South Asia which is reprehensible. You have to look at the specific place and whether there is an environmental effect or a negative effect on workers. Simply whether the working environment is okay," she says.
International work should have support
The Danish Shipowners' Association already encourages members to adhere to the Hong Kong Convention for more sustainable scrapping. This is an international treaty for social and environmentally justifiable scrapping of ships, although it is only ratified by three countries so far: Norway, France and Congo.
Maria Bruun Skipper does not believe that an outright declaration like the one from the Norwegian association is more correct than the Danish shipowners' recommendations.
"We basically agree that scrapping should take place under decent conditions, and this is why we recommend that our members follow the Hong Kong Convention and its principles. This keeps procedures and work safety in line," Skipper says and continues:
"We are putting pressure on the Danish government to ratify the Hong Kong Convention. It is unacceptable that only three countries have ratified it, because this leaves a legal vacuum. Furthermore, we encourage our members to go and inspect the yard, to make demands to the yard and to have discussions with the yard as well as to maintain the contractual right to pay unannouced visits," she says.
Do you think it will have an impact that the Norwegians have taken such a clear stand?
"Its up to them and its their members who wanted to do so. We will stick to our own policy in this regard. Our scrapping policy is to follow the Hong Kong Convention and our members do, especially since we began to make our scrapping policy more explicit," she says and refers to one example of an unnamed member that used one of the infamous yards and subsequently acknowledged that this was not okay and would follow the industry association's advice going forward.
The Danish Shipowners' Association paid visits in the spring to Alang to study four of the approximately 180 scrapping yards where beaching takes place with a ship being sailed onto the beach and cut up.
In a chronicle in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, the Director General of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, Sturla Henriksen, described the loose and porous foundation of the beaches as a problem in relation to using cranes and heavy machinery which he finds necessary to carry out the work in a justifiable manner. In the chronicle he writes:
"It makes a strong impression to witness the working conditions at these so-called "shipbreaking facilities" on many of these beaches. Another common trait of beaching concerns the fact that vessels are placed on an unprotected coastline that is flooded by the tide, which results in environmentally hazardous substances being released into the surroundings. There are no fixed facilities around the vessels set to be scrapped, and this makes it difficult to use cranes and other heavy equipment that is normally necessary when performing safe and responsible scrapping of major vessels. The shipbreaking process, instead, often takes place at significant risk to the workers' life and health, while also damaging the environment. We also know that the actual conditions at many of these places have only improved slightly in recent years," he writes.
Maria Bruun Skipper points out that the work is also carried out with cranes on the beach where the ship being scrapped is used as the solid facility, where the large blocks of metal are dumped when cut loose from the hull.
"There was also a concrete foundation in the areas where things are cut into smaller pieces, so that liquids could not seep into the ground. There were places to store sealed materials containing oil, so that leaks could not happen. There were drainage systems, so that when the monsoon came, there was a way to collect rain water so that dangerous chemicals were not released into the ocean," Skipper says and explains that Danish Shipowners´Association is currently waiting for a total review of four of the yards from a Japanese classification company, ClassNK.
Two of the yards were the ones association visited and saw for themselves.