A confidential report, paid for by the world’s renowned Copenhagen-based shipping giant Maersk, and prepared by one of the most respected consultancies in the shipping industry, Litehauz, has reportedly listed the heavy metals and hazardous chemicals that the ships leak and which can be measured in the environment around the Alang shipbreaking yard in Gujarat.
The report, quoted by Danwatch, a Danish non-profit organization, says that the method of beaching ships at full power at Alang, as also other shipbreaking yards in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, is “one of the most harmful impacts on the environment.”
“A large amount of anti-fouling paint – which contains chemicals that kill plants and animals – is scraped off the hull as the ship comes to a halt on the beach”, the report says, even as adding, “The ships are broken in the intertidal zone, meaning that seawater flows in and out of the ships.”
“The tide in Alang is a massive 13 metres and, as it rises, it picks up oil, chemicals and wastewater that are exposed to the environment when the bulkhead and pipes are partitioned”, the report says.
The report believes, “Avoiding the problem by cleaning all pipes before cutting does not appear feasible. More fundamental and costly changes to the intertidal zone recycling method would encompass the building of structures allowing the vessel to be lightened horizontally by cranes and the remaining still floating hull moved to a secure area with impermeable flooring.”
“The effort to develop and implement a feasible technology is estimated to be 1-3 years and considerably more than 100 000 euro,” it adds.
The report further says, “The use of torch cutting to break the ships also presents serious environmental risks. As the ship is cut up in the intertidal zone, paint on the hull is burned away, releasing hazardous particles into the atmosphere, while paint chips and melted steel is leached into the sea.”
Pointing out that “there are no physical safeguards that can prevent this from happening”, the report says, “Breaking a 10,000 ton ship in an intertidal zone using torch cutting will release around 120 tons of molten steel and two or three tons of paint.”
Comments Danwatch, making the confidential report as the basis of its recent opposition to Maersk Georgia and Maersk Wyoming, currently lying on Alang shipyard for dismantling, these are “twice that size.” It contends, the two ships were sent to Alang because the profits of Maersk had begun to plunge.
Says Danwatch, “On February 10, 2016, Maersk had distributed its annual report which said the profits of the company had gone down from 5.1 billion US dollars in 2014 to 920 million US dollars in 2015, a financial headache for the firm to which markets reacted by sending its stock price into the cellar.”
“But Maersk had already taken steps to help offset the disappointing result. At the bottom of page 15 in their newly-released Sustainability Report for 2015, the company explains that it expects to save 150 million US dollars by disposing of their decommissioned ships at a shipbreaking yard on a beach in India”, it adds.