Maersk Group announced Friday that it has reached an agreement to beach the Maersk Georgia and the Maersk Wyoming at Alang's Shree Ram ship recycling facility, its first disposals in India since its announcement of a new partnership with South Asian yards. The vessels are due to arrive in late May.
“By initiating recycling of vessels in Alang at responsible yards, we ensure further development of financially feasible and responsible recycling options to the benefit of Alang and the shipping industry. This development will take time, but we are determined to work with the yards for the long haul,” says Annette Stube, head of sustainability for Maersk Group. “The Alang plans come at a cost for us, but we will invest money and human resources to ensure we can already now scrap our vessels in compliance with the Hong Kong Convention provisions as well as international standards on labor conditions and anti-corruption."
Maersk says that it will have on-site staff to help the yard improve practices and facilities and to ensure compliance.
In addition, Maersk intends to broaden the support for upgraded yards at Alang by collaborating with other shipowners, increasing demand for more responsible beaching. It plans an initial dialogue about yard choices with the Japanese Shipowners Association in the coming months.
A number of NGOs in India and abroad panned the Friday announcement, alleging the lack of a required Environmental Impact Assessment at the yards; cracked, permeable concrete scrapping surfaces; release of slag and paint chips into the intertidal zone; and lax domestic enforcement of hazardous waste regulations, leading to improper disposal.
“We share the Gujarat-based NGOs’ concerns and demand that European ship owners do not settle for double standards. Ship owners should only use facilities that operate at a level which is accepted in the European Union. We and our Indian partners believe that the environment, local communities and workers in India deserve the same level of protection which is reflected in the European Ship Recycling Regulation (SRR),” said Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
The Hong Kong Convention and the SRR do not explicitly ban beaching, although the EU imposes specific requirements: “The EU SRR allows for the ship’s hull to act as the [primary] impermeable floor, and cranes that could lift cut-off blocks in a controlled manner from the ship to [a second, shoreside] impermeable floor for further cutting would at least [ensure] that these blocks are not in contact with a permeable surface,” said NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s founder and policy director, Ingvild Jenssen. “[But] maintaining the primary cutting zone in an area subject to high tidal differences does not seem optimal,” she added, citing pollution from falling paint chips and slag, plus the risk of an oil spill.
Maersk has committed to helping its Alang partners meet regulatory requirements, and reported in February that it believes the facilities can be upgraded to SRR standards.