Africa’s role in ship scrapping
Tanzania features as a reflagging option for scrap dealers
As the majority of all global tonnage destined to be scrapped lands on the three beaches in South Asia, it’s worth noting that African shipowners and African flagged ships contribute only a small percentage to overall picture.
According to new data released last week by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, 446 ocean-going commercial ships and offshore units were scrapped in 2023. The vast majority, 325 ships in total, were taken apart on a beach in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. Most vessels scrapped originally belonged to shipping companies in East Asia and Europe.
Only 14 of these vessels were sent to the beaches by African shipowners with Seychelles and Egypt topping the list with four and three scrapped vessels respectively. The remaining seven were owned by companies in Libya, Mauritania, South Africa, Guinea, Liberia, Niger and Senegal.
In terms of African Flag States, it is surprising to note that Liberia – as one of the biggest registries globally – does not feature strongly as the last flag of registry for scrapped vessels and is not even the African Flag State with the highest scrapping index.
Both Sierra Leonne and Gabon, with 23 and 21 vessels registered under their flags respectively, are ahead of Liberia which features only 14. Interestingly, Tanzania is third on the list with 13 scrapped vessels registered to their flag in 2023. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform highlights Tanzania as a popular option for middlemen scrap dealers who rename, reregister and reflag end-of-life ships prior to their last voyage to the beaching yards in an attempt to conceal original ownership.
Almost half of the ships beached in 2023 changed their original flag to a grey- or black-listed flag registry just weeks before hitting the beach. The flags of Cameroon, Comoros, Mongolia, Palau, St Kitts & Nevis and Tanzania were particularly popular with cash buyers.
According to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, at least two of these flag changes enabled Greek companies Danaos Shipping and Ilios Shipping to circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation which requires EU flagged vessels to only be dismantled in EU approved ship recycling facilities.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform continues to raise the alarm on ships that are scrapped on the beaches, highlighting accidents and pollution threats.
“There is no possibility to take apart a ship on a beach in a way that is environmentally sustainable and safe for workers."
“There is no possibility to take apart a ship on a beach in a way that is environmentally sustainable and safe for workers,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Shipping companies are dodging their responsibility to make sure their toxic waste does not harm workers’ health and sensitive coastal environments,” she adds.
In 2023, at least six workers lost their lives when breaking apart vessels on the beach of Chattogram, Bangladesh, and another 19 were severely injured.
“It is expected that many accidents go unreported due to lack of transparency. There is furthermore no official monitoring and recording of occupational diseases, including cancer, of which many more workers suffer,” says Sara Costa, Project Officer at the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
DUMPERS 2023 – Worst practices
China tops the list of country dumper in 2023. Despite the existence of state-of-the-art ship recycling facilities at national level, Chinese owners sold 71 vessels for scrapping in South Asia, 59 of which were beached in Bangladesh. While China has banned the import of waste as part of its efforts to clean its own environment and improve the quality of life of its citizens, the Chinese shipping industry is getting away with dumping its toxic waste on some of the most vulnerable communities and environments in the world.
Hong Kong, UAE, Thailand, Greece, Russia and South Korea follow as worst dumpers in 2023 with more than a dozen ships beached each.
Swiss containership giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is the 2023 worst corporate dumper. Despite having been repeatedly and strongly criticised for its dumping of more than one hundred ships in the last decade, MSC scrapped no less than 14 of its old container ships in Alang, India, in 2023.
Evergreen, Gearbulk, Green Reefers, Maersk, Sinokor and Zodiac Group Monaco are other well-known companies that sold their toxic assets for scrapping on South Asian beaches in 2023.