Green Ships:Green Ship Countries

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Specific Harms

India is the world leader in shipwrecking by volume, "particularly in the State of Gujarat along the beaches of Alang."[1] With these operations, however, comes the risk of increased environmental toxins and decreased occupational safety.

Alang is a popular ship-beaching location for several reasons. Located on the Indian Ocean close to major trade routes, it offers minimum transport distances. Other draws include insufficient or unenforced legislative frameworks, a ready-made market for old ship components ("pumps, generators, compressors, motors"), refurbished and applied in "emerging industrialized economies, conveniently large intertidal zones in which high tides allow vessels to beach under their own power," and low labor costs. [1]

Due to the need for cheap labor and the lack of legislative guidelines, ship-breaking workers in Alang face extreme occupational dangers. They find themselves exposed to substances such as asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, and residual oil, as well as to explosions and falling steel. [2] "There is no systematic training for the workforce, and injuries and fatalities are common." In many cases, accidents kill several workers; "it is unfortunately common for up to 15 men to die at once."[1] Not only do ship toxins endanger workers on the job, but they also cause problems upon reuse. "Most shipwrecking workers in southwest Asia live in shanties made of recycled ship steel, the housing and sanitary conditions worsened by transient nature."[1]

With respect to environmental dangers, "reports from the beaches of Alang indicate that shipwrecking facilities are heavily contaminated with heavy metals, asbestos, and TBT."[1]

Regulatory Status


Recycling Overview

Like India, Bangladesh performs a large percentage of the world’s ship recycling. "Since 1974, Bangladesh has had approximately 50 shipbreaking yards; altogether, these operations have dismantled about 52% of the end-of-life vessels in the world that weigh more than 200 dead weight tons." "These yards supply 25–30 per cent of Bangladesh’s total yearly demand for steel." "As of 2012, Bangladesh demolished one and a half million tons of steel, more than the country currently has the ability to buy on the international market."[3]


Bangladeshi legislation does little to protect the environment from the harms of ship breaking. It is unclear whether Bangladesh has chosen to endorse any of the protocol listed in the Basel Convention, the Hong Kong Convention, or many other smaller conventions. It has not ratified "Annexes I, II, IV and V of the MARPOL (Marine Pollution) Convention, which require the establishment of appropriate waste-reception facilities for the reception of ship-generated waste."[3]

In order to remedy the environmental problems caused by ship-breaking, ship-recycling facilities must develop more environmentally-sound policies. Simultaneously, ship exporters must establish guidelines that encourage the safe processing of ships. EU Waste Shipment Regulation: "Since the EU is a major exporter of end-of-life ships to substandard “dismantling and recycling” facilities in South Asia, the European legislation concerning this topic is of crucial importance."[3]


Work in ship-wrecking is difficult and dangerous. In 2004, the International Labour Organization (ILO) put out guidelines for Asian countries and Turkey that labeled common ship-breaking work hazards as "likely to cause injuries, death, ill health, diseases and incidents among workers."[3]

Due to the poor economy in parts of Bangladesh, many, if not all of the members of a given family may work in ship-recycling. Men and boys tend to work on ship-breaking, while women, girls, and young children tend to sort out the ship components that will be distributed for re-sale. Women may also filter asbestos into powder in workshops outside the shipbreaking yards.(FIDH, 2005)? - may be a direct quote[4]

Many children discontinue their formal education to participate in the ship-breaking process – jeopardizing both their present health and their future ability to find less dangerous employment. In the ship-breaking area of Chittagong, 10.94% of laborers are children (Photo: Reichmann, 2005).[4] 46.42% of workers in ship-breaking yards cannot read or write, and 43.02% received education only up to the primary level. With limited education and inadequate training for the jobs they do have, ship-wrecking workers experience little job mobility. Furthermore, they generally do not have adequate information about their rights in the workplace. (YPSA, 2005)?.[4]

According to watchdog groups, national and international regulations do not sufficiently protect Bangladeshi ship-wrecking workers from dangerous and unfair work conditions. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency that comprises 171 states including Bangladesh, regulates all facets of the shipping industry. According to Greenpeace, the "International Maritime Organization (IMO) Guidelines do not contain effective mechanisms to monitor or ensure compliance, nor do they provide adequate guidance for companies, courts and governments on how to deal with the export of ships for scrapping in a manner that is fully consistent with other existing international commitments."[3]

Regulatory Status


Industry Overview

Located in eastern China in the lower reaches of the Yangtze and Pearl Rivers, China’s shipbreaking industry ranks among the largest in the world. As with operations in Bangladesh, Chinese shipbreakers prefer the largest ships for dismantling.[5] Although China only dismantled about 5% of the merchant ships recycled in 2006-2007, these ships totaled more than 50% of the total ship tonnage scrapped worldwide that year.[6] The majority of its 90 yards are at Zhang Jiang in Jiangsu province, but yards also exist in Guangdong and Fujian provinces. New facilities for ship building, repair, and recycling are under construction in Dalian, a major port city in Liaoning Province. (the needed update of this information is on page 247 of Galley article) Shipbreaking in China takes place alongside quays, with a breaking process that employs many of the techniques used in shipbuilding. Ships remain in the water throughout breaking, and cranes lift away ship scrap metal.[5] The success of Chinese shipyards comes in large part from the huge demand for steel within the country. This demand made it more difficult for other ship breaking countries to hold onto their portion of the market. The operations at Alang, India were among those affected.[5] The partly mechanized shipbreaking method used in China also gives it a leg up over the operations in India and Bangladesh that rely on entirely on manual labor.[6]

Worker Profile and Working Conditions

Chinese shipbreaking conditions tend to be better than those in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. This has occurred in large part due to pressure from Greenpeace on the companies that send their ships to China. As a result, ship-owning companies are taking a more active role in the shipbreaking process. The companies Hamburg Süd and P&O Nedlloyd (“later part of the Maersk group”[5]) equipped workers with protective gear and safety training. Some European organizations now offer “a service to shipowners whereby their vessels can be demolished in specific Chinese yards under the supervision of inspectors with the powers to halt the process, should this be deemed not to be in accordance with predetermined standards.”[5] Chinese shipbreaking operations tend to have fairly good housing and few accidents.[6] Greenpeace has reported, however, that workers still do not properly handle toxics like asbestos. Although the resale of asbestos is banned, it occurs often.[5]

Environmental Conditions

Containment of toxins remains an issue with Chinese shipbreaking operations. Oil often spills into the water despite the use of oil booms. Asbestos disposal has been a repeated problem. Shipbreaking sites frequently stand right next to active farmland, creating the opening for migration of toxins into the food chain.[5] However, shipbreaking is not allowed “in…[areas protected for] drinking water sources, [areas for] pumping salt water for desalting, salt-fields, important fishing areas, seaside resorts, scenic or historic sites, and other areas which need particular protection.”[6]

Regulatory Status

[Not yet edited or checked for direct quotes] Of the four dominant ship-recycling countries, China is the only one currently acting within the guidelines of a ratified convention. Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK), a Tokyo-based ship classification society, released a Statement of Compliance (SOC) to a ship-recycling facility in Jianmeng, China. "The SOC certifies that the ship-recycling facility and its processes comply with the" 2009 Hong Kong Convention. "This marks the first time a ship-recycling facility" has received this kind of certification.[7]


Industry Overview

The Pakistani shipbreaking industry is the third largest shipbreaking operation worldwide. Located on Gaddani Beach (50 kilometers from Karachi), 38 operators employ between 12,000 and 15,000 workers on 68 active plots. Even with its relatively small changes in tides (between 1 and 3 meters), all ships “but the largest draft vessels” can be beached on Gaddani Beach’s sandy shores. Once the largest shipbreaking operation in the world, Pakistan’s shipbreaking industry has gradually waned due to “rising scrap prices and import duties.” Ship scrap metal and components continue to find quick re-use in the Pakistani economy.[5]

Worker Profile and Working Conditions

The majority of shipbreaking workers are immigrants from Northern India. While union membership is modest, two trade unions do exist: the Ship Breaking Labour Union Gadani and the Ship Breaking Democratic Workers Union. Most laborers do not work under contract. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports shantytowns, poor sanitation, and lack of access to healthcare and good drinking water. Labor costs have been described as the “lowest in Asia.”[5] According to Greenpeace, shipbreaking workers earn the average wage in Pakistan: between $2 and $3 per day.[4] Worker protection remains inadequate, but at least shipbreakers in Pakistan make use of machinery rather than manual handling to disassemble ships.[5]

Environmental Conditions

The Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for ensuring that ships may safely be dismantled on Gaddani Beach. Reportedly, inspectors have been known to give the go-ahead on ship dismantling without actually looking inside the ship. It is illegal to resell asbestos in Pakistan, and facilities for asbestos disposal do not exist there. Consequently, bags of asbestos end up lingering in shipbreaking yards.[5] Environmental watchdogs warn of the dangers of the shipbreaking industry to the coastal ecosystem.[4]

Regulatory Status

“Responsibility for environmental and labour matters relating to shipbreaking have been shared between federal and provincial governments.”[5] Nevertheless, few regulations specifically targeting shipbreaking exist in Pakistan, and those in place are barely enforced.[5]


United States

United Kingdom


  • Denmark: Fornæs yard in the port of Grena ̊
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Netherlands
  • Lithuania
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines: West Cebu Island (1994)



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Dodds, D. (2007). Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Environmental Effects of Shipwrecking and Possible Solutions Under India’s Environmental Regime. 20 Pac. McGeorge Global Bus. and Dev. L.J., 207, 208-236.
  2. Puthucherril, T.G. (2008). Rest in Peace: From Shipbreaking to Sustainable Ship Recycling. (Thesis). Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Alam, S., & A. Faruque. (2014). Legal regulation of the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh: The international regulatory framework and domestic implementation challenges. Marine Policy, 47, 46-56.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Hossain, Md.M., & M.M. Islam. (2006). Ship Breaking Activities and its Impact on the Coastal Zone of Chittagong, Bangladesh: Towards Sustainable Management. Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), Chittagong, Bangladesh. pp ix +54.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 Galley, M. (2014). Shipbreaking: Hazards and liabilities. Springer: Springer International Publishing Switzerland.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Puthucherril, T.G. (2010) From shipbreaking to sustainable ship recycling: evolution of a legal regime. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
  7. Anonymous. (2013). China Ship Recycling Facility Becomes First to Receive SOC. Sea Technology, 54(1), 68.

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