Ship Scrap Furor
Well it has happened again, people are up in arms about a ships being scrapped overseas. This time it is the former Marine Atlantic ferries - but it should equally be the old laker aground in Cape Breton and maybe even another ship just offered for sale by public tender.
This is not the first time that there has been a big stink raised about polluted ships going to India and being cut up in an unsafe and toxic manner. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and some other others, do not play by the world’s rules in this business. They pay top dollar for old ships because they can. They don’t follow even the most rudimentary safety protocols (workers don’t even wear shoes, let alone safety boots) they pay slave wages and they pollute the environment with impunity. The death rate among workers is obscene. Their (and our) governments are complicit in this for failing to have the guts to enforce regulation. Alang India is virtually an autonomous state. Indian government officials are afraid to go there, let along international watchdogs.
Here’s the example of Marine Atlantic:
They want to get rid of their old ships for top dollar, without taking any responsibility for the process. Bottom line comes first. They, and everyone else knows the ships will be scrapped - the ships no longer meet international regulations for life safety - they are clapped out mechanically and so they can’t be used as passenger vessels anymore.
They hire a fixer to arrange a sale to an intermediary company in a flag of convenience country. That company, with no assets except the ship, no insurance nor responsibility, transports the ship to India where it is flipped to the shipbreaker.
Canada has its own Environmental Protection Act (CEPA 1999) and regulations and is a signatory to the Basel Convention, so what is its responsibility, and that of its crown corporations and entities? It seems that it rests on weak clauses in sales agreements that the purchasers will agree to comply with the laws. But if they don’t what does Canada do about it?
It is very easy to demand a bond from the buyer at time of sale-but no such bond has ever been requested or provided.
Here’s the example of Canadian Miner:
Old ship, no longer worth repairing. Owner wants to unload, so sells for scrap. Turkey is closer and a lot more palatable than India (but the ship isn’t seaworthy enough to make it to India anyway.) It is sold to a shell company with no insurance, no assets and no responsibility. On arrival in Turkey it will be flipped to the scrapper.
Transport Canada allows the ship to leave Montreal in tow of a tug. Towing gear is inadequate, tug crew is incompetent (and “under the weather”) ship is unseaworthy, is uninsured, and contains hazardous materials such as PCBs. When the ship inevitably runs aground it is the taxpayers who are left with footing bill to remove hazards and to see this unsightly wreck deteriorate for years in a protected wildlife or spend a fortune to remove it.
Here’s the example of the Provo Wallis:
A retired Coast Guard vessel, offered for sale in British Columbia. The Minister of Fisheries & Oceans doesn’t want it anymore. Its been out of service for a year and is a mess. It will have to be towed away, either for scrap or for rebuilding. The government’s own sales ad is full of gentle reminders about Environmental Act and Basel convention, but has no teeth. There is a clause that the towing company must have liability insurance in case they bump into the wharf when they leave, but that is it. Where are the teeth?
The clauses about getting paid are pretty strict, but there seem to be no consequences for failure to meet environmental regs.
Here’s what needs to happen:
Shipowners will have to face up to two facts. Ships going for scrap (and we all know which ships these are) must be:
a. sold for scrap in Canada, or
b. if sold foreign must be cleaned up and be issued with a serious certificate of sea worthiness, backed by a huge bond.
The bottom line of the company can not be improved at the expense of the bottom line of the rest of the world. Sound like the 99% issue? Duh.