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  • Maersk ‘undermining its reputation’ with plan to circumvent environmental laws on ship recycling

    The Maersk Group’s plan to avoid European environmental law on ship recycling by flagging ships to non-EU flags seriously undermines its credibility as a responsible ship operator, the Clean Shipping Coalition has said. The Danish shipping giant said it will need to scrap more vessels in the coming years due to oversupply and low freight rates in the container market, and it estimates it can earn an additional US $1-2 million per ship by using beaching yards in Alang, India.

    John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk and president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “Maersk is a European company and should abide by European laws. Suggesting that it might use a flag of convenience to escape EU ship breaking rules designed to protect the environment and worker safety is scandalous, and will seriously undermine its credibility as a​ ​responsible​ ​ship owner and operator.”

    Until recently, Maersk followed a progressive policy on ship recycling, including a ‘cradle to grave’ approach which committed to ‘total vessel recycling’. Maersk’s decision to resort to the low-cost method of beaching and to flagging out its ships beforehand undermines not only the company’s position as a responsible industry leader, but also European efforts to improve global conditions, the Clean Shipping Coalition said.

    Recent technical guidelines for ship recycling facilities issued by the European Commission make it clear that a beach is not an appropriate place for a high-risk heavy industry involving hazardous waste management. While only vessels sailing under an EU flag will be legally obliged to use an EU approved facility, the NGOs have called for all shipping companies around the world with a responsible policy to use EU-approved facilities to show that they are recycling vessels responsibly.

    Sotiris Raptis, shipping officer at Transport & Environment, said: “While Maersk supports innovation in reducing air polluting emissions, this move shows a cavalier attitude towards the environmental impacts of dismantling ships in the intertidal zone. Maersk needs to reverse course on practices that it previously denounced and that would never be allowed in Europe.”

    Notes to editors:

    [1] The Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC) is the only global international environmental organisation that focuses exclusively on shipping issues. Its nine members are:  Air Pollution & Climate Secretariat (AirClim); Bellona Foundation; Clean Air Task Force (CATF); Environmental Defense Fund (EDF); Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU ); Oceana; Seas at Risk; Stichting De Noordzee (North Sea Foundation); and Transport & Environment (T&E).

    [2] Indian NGOs and the Shipbreaking Platform voiced serious concerns regarding the beaching of end-of-life vessels in Alang, and highlighting pollution caused by the beaching method. This includes: the dispersal of debris, including toxic paint chips, into the intertidal zone; improper downstream disposal of toxic waste; cracked concrete areas for final demolition; poor accommodations for workers; and an absence of proper environmental impact assessments and permits, issued under the limited abilities of the local government. They welcomed the EU taking “a strong stance against the continued acceptance of breaking ships directly on the beach” – a practice which is banned in other parts of the world.