Cruise ships are massive vessels that cost millions of pounds to build and run each year. But what happens to cruise ships when they come to the end of their lives? One expert has revealed how disposing of a ship can sometimes come at a horrifying price.
Iain Butterworth, a member of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers’ (FOIL) Environmental SFT and Solicitor at Thomas Miller Law spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk about some of the poor practices than can take place when ships are disposed of and how this impacts both humans and the environment.
Butterworth explained that he began his career as a Marine Engineer on vessels and is now a Marine Lawyer and Consultant.
“I’ve seen ships being cut up in front of my eyes in various jurisdictions,” he explained.
He said: “The top five recycling facilities are Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and to a lesser degree, Turkey.”
The prices for steel for scrapping in Bangladesh, he explained as an example, is always higher than anywhere else and that’s where there’s a tendency to sell vessels to Bangladesh.
Butterworth said that almost all tonnage is sent to southeast Asia where it is “largely unregulated”.
“There is still a big problem there,” he said.
The reason for this is because labour costs and overhead costs are low.
He added: “They’re driven up onto the coastline, essentially a beach, and then bit by bit they’re chopped up with burning gear and broken up with sledge hammers.
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“There’s nothing sophisticated about it, that’s why the overheads are so low. The consequence of that are that these ships are dismantled on the beach.
“There is no environmental protection, it’s not just the oils in the vessel but it’s the paint from the hulls of the vessel that are chipped off, as the vessels are cut-up the steel filings find there way into the sand and vessels contain all sorts of sludges, asbestos – there’s just no protection for the environment or workers.”
“It’s unregulated and it’s allowed to go on unchecked really.
He explained that this does not occur in all yards in Bangladesh but it does take place.
“Generally speaking there’s just no protection for the environment or the workers,” he said.
He added: “You can imagine just pulling a ship onto a beach and cutting up, the harm that’s doing to the environment.
“And it’s not just the physical environment. In Bangladesh, prior to it becoming a recycling facility it’s biggest industry was fishing.
“That’s been cut by about 95 percent, not only that but environmental tests on the fish and on the sand show that the fish are carrying very high levels of dangerous pollutants and in some cases the sand can be made up of 30 or 40 percent steel filings and the remnants of all the ships.”
He explained that when he went to Bangladesh a lot of the people who run the yards have green certificates and are “fully compliant”.
“But they’re not. And when you contrast that to what goes on in Europe and how very highly regulated it is, it’s a shame tonnage goes there [Bangladesh],” he said.
Butterworth explained that it’s not just the environment that suffers, but the workers too.
He said that in Alang, the main shipping yard in Bangladesh, since 2009 to 2019, 137 workers have lost their lives.
But Butterworth thinks the figures “are hard to believe” and that there could be “significant injuries up and above that”.
He said that a lot of the workers wear hard hats, they sometimes wear gloves but they’re still wearing flip-flops.
“They wear very little safety gear and unfortunately life is cheap out there,” he added.
He said: “For example, in Alang the workers risk gas explosions, falling from heights, being crushed by large steel plates and these are the main cause of fatal injury.
“No basic safety gear. The closest hospital to Alang is 30 miles away. Workers are exposed to asbestos and mercury so many succumb to cancers.
“They get 35 pence an hour.”
“There is a known human consequence to this.”
CLIA has been contacted for comment.
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