EU must not dump toxic ships in Asia

Thousands of toxic ships could be dumped on Asian and Turkish beaches following a worldwide ban on single hulled oil tankers entering into force this week.

While this has been welcomed by the international environmental organisation Greenpeace, it has warned EU officials that the phase-out has not included any environmentally or socially responsible procedures for breaking down the vessels, which workers must currently do with no protection from asbestos, explosions or the cocktail of toxic chemicals contained in the vessels.

The move to phase-out single hulled oil tankers was made by the European Commission and the International Maritime Organisation after the Erika and Prestige disasters.

As a result of this, over 2,000 tankers will now be removed and scrapped within five years, according to a Greenpeace analysis, and over 1,000 tankers will be scrapped in 2005, a figure that dwarfs any previous estimates.

The analysis also shows that around 334 tankers are currently either owned by European companies, or are registered (or flagged) in the EU.

“The EU successfully achieved the global accelerated phasing out of single hull oil tankers but did not provide measures for ensuring the safe and clean breaking up of these ships,” Greenpeace campaigner Marietta Harjono stated.

“The Commission now needs to ensure a proper follow-up, so that the problem is not simply exported to vulnerable workers in the developing world’s shipbreaking yards.”

Under the UN’s Basel Convention, vessels due to be broken up are considered to be toxic waste, and should not therefore be transported from OECD countries to non-OECD countries.

Ms Harjono said that Greenpeace now urged EU institutions to take urgent action on EU-controlled single hull oil tankers by enforcing the EU Waste Shipment Regulation to fight the lack of transparency in shipping and to develop a definitive and consolidated list of single hull tankers, subject to phase-out regulations.

She also said the organisation had demanded an immediate commitment from EU transport ministers and the Commission that the toxic burden of Europe’s oil tankers would not end up on Asian beaches.

By Jane Kettle

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