Brussels, 20 January 2019 – Dutch ship owner Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV has been fined 780.000 EUR and paid a settlement of 2.2 million EUR – totaling to a price tag of almost 3 million EUR – for having beached a ship for scrapping in India.
In 2013, Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV, a subsidiary of WEC Lines BV, sold the HMS Laurence to a cash buyer, a company specialised in the trade of end-of-life vessels to beaching yards. The vessel ended up in Alang, India, where it was broken under conditions that “cause serious damage to the environment and expose the health of workers and the local population to grave danger”, according to the Dutch Public Prosecutor. Scrapping ships on tidal mudflats is not allowed in Europe, and the export of hazardous materials  from the EU to developing countries is prohibited.
Following criminal investigations on the illegal export of the vessel from Italy, the Dutch Public Prosecutor agreed to a settlement of 2.2 million EUR: the amount that Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV had earned by selling the ship to the beaching yard. The Prosecutor stated that it had accepted the settlement as the company has announced that it will take measures to avoid scrapping vessels on beaches in the future.
“It is very encouraging to see that ship owners are being held accountable for the trafficking of toxic ships – it is also encouraging to see that WEC Lines BV is now committed to the safe and clean recycling of its fleet off the beach. With that they join other responsible ship owners, such as Dutch Boskalis, German Hapag Lloyd, and Scandinavian companies Wallenius-Wilhelmsen and Grieg, that already have sustainable recycling policies in place that clearly rule out beaching”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Executive Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
Already in 2015, the captain of the HMS Laurence was sentenced by the Dutch Maritime Disciplinary Court to a six-month conditional suspension of his master’s navigation license. Beaching the vessel was in breach of the captain’s duty of care to the environment, according to the Disciplinary Court. This first suspension of a European ship master revealed that also the crew can be held liable for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking.
In March last year another Dutch shipping company, Seatrade, was convicted for having intended to scrap four vessels in India. Five subsidiaries of the company received fines, as did two of Seatrade’s CEOs, who were also sentenced to professional bans.
The Netherlands is taking a leading position on the cracking down on illegal trafficking of toxic ships. More investigations are also underway in other European countries, such as the Harrier case in Norway and the North Sea Producer case in the UK. Last week, in Bangladesh, a shipbreaker was sentenced to a 280.000 USD fine for having scrapped a vessel on the touristic Parki Sea Beach. The court emphasised that beaching causes irreparable damage to the local ecology.
“Both exporting and importing countries are starting to hold industry stakeholders accountable – it is high time to scrap the beaching method and replace it by proper recycling in facilities that can contain pollutants and ensure safe working conditions. Better methods exist and facilities that operate under higher standards have the capacity to take in more ships. An increased demand for sustainable practices will see more investments in yards that meet the standards of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation”, says Jenssen.
EU-flagged vessels are now exempt from the EU Waste Shipment Regulation that regulates the export of hazardous wastes, as they fall under the scope of the new EU Ship Recycling Regulation . Under the new legal regime, EU-flagged ships must be recycled only in safe and sound facilities included by the EU in the European List of ship recycling facilities. Beaching yards will not be accepted on the EU list as they fall short of the environmental and safety requirements that the Regulation sets.