The Norwegian Environment Agency has arrested its first vessel for illegal export of hazardous waste after being informed by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its member organization Bellona that it had been sold for recycling in Pakistan.
The Tide Carrier (also known as Harrier or Eide Carrier) is now not allowed to leave Norway unless it is to sail to a ship recycling destination in line with the European Waste Shipment Regulation and the U.N. Basel Convention.
On February 22, the vessel, previously owned by Norway’s Eide Group, attempted to leave country under a new name, flag and registered owner, reports the Platform. Renamed Tide Carrier, the ship had swapped its flag to that of Comoros and was registered under an anonymous St. Kitts and Nevis based post-box company, Julia Shipping.
However, the vessel experienced engine failure off the Norwegian coast. Salvage operations were complicated by poor weather conditions and included the emergency evacuation of five crew members - one of which suffered a broken shoulder – and the deployment of two tugs.
Norwegian authorities had been trying to trace the owner and insurer of the vessel, to hold them accountable for the cost of the rescue operation incurred by the Norwegian state.
On April 4, the Norwegian Environment Agency found evidence that the vessel was under “break up voyage” insurance from Norway to Gadani, Pakistan. They also found unidentified and excessive amounts of sludge and fuel oils. The previous week, while the vessel was still in the dock, the Tide Carrier’s name was changed to Harrier and her flag changed from Comoros to Palau.
Consequently, it became clear that the repair contract from Oman which had been provided to the Norwegian authorities was false. The attempt to illegally export the ship for breaking on the Gadani beach resulted in her arrest.
This is not the first time fake contracts for repair or operation have been used to sail vessels to Asian breaking yards, says the Platform.
Worldwide, approximately 1,000 merchant vessels are being scrapped every year. The majority are sent to Asia to be dismantled, and welfare and environmental conditions in countries such as India and Bangladesh have come under focus as they may not be comparable in standard to those expected in Europe.
Dr Nikos Mikelis, non-executive Director of cash buyer GMS, had this to say: “Every so often we hear of a detention of a ship departing from a E.U. port with destination to a ship recycling yard in South Asia. This is because of the European Regulation on Waste Shipments (Basel Convention + Ban Amendment) that applies to the export of hazardous wastes, and which the E.U., I think alone in the world, also applies to ships (regardless of flag).
“Under the same regime, any ship departing from a E.U. port for recycling in China is also violating the same legislation because China is not a member of OECD.
“The E.U. created the European Regulation on Ship Recycling just to resolve this anomaly and also to avoid the more than 90 percent evasion of this regulation. Interestingly, when the new European Regulation on Ship Recycling is fully applied, in maybe 12 to 18 months from now, the Waste Shipment regulation will continue to apply to non-E.U. flagged ships. Such ships in future will either evade the Waste Shipment Regulation in the same way that most ships do today, or will switch flag to an E.U. flag when they find themselves detained, or will go for recycling in the main OECD recycling destination, namely Turkey.
“This however is not a solution to the real question on how to improve safety and environmental conditions in South Asian yards,” says Mikelis. He sees the only practical and sustainable answer as the entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention. The Convention guides ship design, operation and end-of-life management in order to reduce the environmental footprint and safety risks of shipbreaking.
The convention, adopted in 2009, needs ratification by 15 states representing 40 percent of the world's tonnage; these states also need to meet a minimum level of ship recycling activity. Turkey was the sixth country to ratify the Convention, following Norway, Congo, France, Belgium and Panama. Denmark has taken first steps towards ratifying the Convention and is expected to do so in spring 2017.
“The sane world must be applauding Turkey’s ratification of the Convention on March 31, 2017,” he says. “Now, we look forward to hearing, hopefully soon, of India’s accession to the Hong Kong Convention.”
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.