Shipbreaking reformers take protest to Hamburg
Opponents of the practice of the demolition of old ships on beaches in Southeast Asian countries such as India and Bangladesh took their campaign to the headquarters of the German Shipowners Association in Hamburg Friday.
European Parliament member Sabine Wils (GUE/NGL) and the NGO
Shipbreaking Platform took part in the demonstration, and the German Left Party in the Hamburg State Parliament asked parliamentary questions about the shipbreaking practices of Hapag-Lloyd and other Hamburg-based ship owners to the Hamburg Government, known as the Senate.
“Shipbreaking on beaches in South Asia is a highly dramatic practice, which puts human life and the environment in danger. Of course, the City of Hamburg must show its responsibility — both as a location of the maritime industry and as the largest shareholder of Hapag-Lloyd. The city is very well able to influence the social and environmental standards of state or partly state-owned companies and to make sure that they set good examples. The City of Hamburg should immediately meet with Hapag-Lloyd and work on a sustainable solution for ship recycling”, said Norbert Hackbusch, the Left Party’s expert for port policy in the Hamburg Parliament.
“The Hamburg Government stresses in its answer that the German commercial fleet was amongst the youngest and most modern fleets in the world. However, the Hamburg Government is wrong in saying that ship recycling was therefore of no concern for German ship owners. At least 68 German end-of-life vessels were sent to beaches for breaking in 2013, making it the second worst country in Europe after Greece. Usually, the sale is coordinated by a middleman who sometimes guarantees the ship owner that he will further operate the ship. In fact, the ship goes almost directly for breaking in South Asia. It would be naive to believe that ship owners are not aware of what is going on," said Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
“The new EU regulation on ship recycling, which has just entered into force, is toothless in one decisive aspect. By simply flagging out, ship owners can circumvent the regulation. Already today, close to three quarters of all European end-of-life vessels going to South Asia do not fly the flag of an EU Member State but a flag of convenience, such as Tuvalu, Comoros, or Saint Kitts and Nevis. This is why we urgently need a financial mechanism, such as an economic incentive for clean and safe recycling. Different models are possible, for example a financial guarantee for ship owners, which will only be reimbursed if their ship is recycled in a clean and safe way. The European Commission is currently working on a list of compliant ship recycling facilities that must apply the highest environmental and social standards”, said Wils.
Hapag-Lloyd said it had no comment on the protest, saying it is "not selling vessels to scrappers/cash buyers."
A spokesman for the German Shipowners Association said, "Only internationally binding standards are effective in ensuring environmentally sound recycling of ships in safe working conditions at all break-up locations across the globe.
" As early as May 2009," he continued, "the member states of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) signed a convention in Hong Kong setting out clear and comprehensive rules for the safety of workers and environmental protection at the recycling locations. We hereby call upon the federal German government and the international community to finally bring the Hong Kong convention into force."
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