Dutch Court to Hear Shipbreaking Case Against Seatrade
For the first time in Europe, public prosecutors are bringing criminal charges against a shipowner – Seatrade – for having sold vessels to scrap yards in countries “where current ship dismantling methods endangers the lives and health of workers and pollutes the environment.”
The case is being heard in a Rotterdam Court this week, and the Dutch Public Prosecutor calls for a fine of EUR 2.35 million ($2.9 million) and confiscation of the profits Seatrade made on the sale of four ships, as well as a six month prison sentence for three of Seatrade’s top executives.
Seatrade is based in Groningen, the Netherlands, and is the largest reefer operator in the world. All four vessels departed on their last voyage to the breaking yards from the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg in the spring of 2012.
In 2013, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform highlighted Seatrade’s sale of the Spring Bear and Spring Bob to Indian and Bangladeshi breakers. The charges also involve the scrapping of the Spring Panda and Spring Deli in Turkey and are based on international laws governing the export of hazardous waste and the E.U. Waste Shipment Regulation. The Regulation prohibits E.U. Member States from exporting hazardous waste to countries outside the OECD, as well as requiring a prior informed consent for such exports.
According to the prosecutor, Seatrade opted for using a cash buyer, rather than recycling the ships in a safe and clean manner, for purely financial reasons.
“Despite ongoing criminal investigations, Seatrade sold two more ships – the Sina and Ellan – for dirty and dangerous breaking on the beach in Alang, India, in August 2017,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “This case adds itself to the growing demand, including from investors and major shipping banks, for better ship recycling practices.”
Authorities in Norway, Belgium and the U.K. will be paying close attention to the verdict of the case, says Jenssen, as similar cases are currently being investigated there.
Earlier this year the world largest private investor, the Norwegian Oil Pension Fund, divested from four shipping companies due to their shipbreaking practices. They also argued that selling a vessel to a beaching yard “is a consequence of an active choice on the part of the company that owned the vessel to maximize its profit.”