EU "toxic" ship exports to Asia attacked

Practice is "immoral and illegal" under EU, international, law, say NGOs

International NGOs Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network (BAN) have attacked European exports of ships for scrapping in Asia as "immoral and illegal". The groups highlighted their case this week with protests in Barcelona and Rotterdam against Dutch-British shipping firm P&O Nedlloyd. They called on P&O Nedlloyd to "stop dumping hazardous waste in Asia" and boarded a vessel due to be sent to Asia for dismantling in three months time.

The NGOs argue that the Basel convention on transboundary movements of waste - which entered into force in the EU in January this year - clearly forbids the export of ships containing toxic materials for scrapping in non-OECD countries. Vessels reaching the end of their lives contain a range of hazardous substances scheduled under the Basel convention, including asbestos, lead-based paints, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Vessels "for breaking up" are explicitly identified under the Basel convention.

Greenpeace and BAN also attacked the EU authorities for not enforcing the Basel rules, and India for not enforcing its own laws. According to the groups, shipping companies are exploiting a loophole in EU and international rules because ships leaving Europe for eventual dismantling often carry cargo and are therefore classed as working vessels, not covered by the waste export ban.

A Commission official told ENDS Daily today that the precise point at which such ships can be classified as waste material intended for disposal was by no means clear. "We are still looking into a whole range of questions before we can say how and where EU law applies," she said.

A spokesperson for P&O Nedlloyd suggested that the question was a "starting point for discussion about a problem facing the whole shipping industry. Ninety per cent of the European fleet is going to India and other developing countries for scrapping because there is no room for dismantling in Europe," he said.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace; Basel Action Network, tel: +1 206 720 6426; P&O Nedlloyd, tel: +31 10 400 5000.

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