Turkey ship breaking conditions worse than South Asian countries
EU plans to initiate surprise inspection and audit
The shipbreaking industry in Turkey may be facing conditions similar to or worse than the controversial shipyards in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, despite receiving approval from the European Union (EU), according to several observers interviewed by ShippingWatch.
One major criticism revolves around the infrequency of the EU Commission’s inspections, allowing the shipyards to deteriorate significantly between visits. Pia Meling, the CEO of Grieg Green, which advises shipping companies on sustainable scrapping, notes that the five-year interval between inspections provides no incentive for continuous improvement, as the yards can remain on the approved list without making further enhancements.
To address this issue, the EU Commission plans to initiate unannounced audits at the shipyards, aiming to ensure that facilities maintain compliance with EU standards on an ongoing basis.
Meling highlights the decline in quality observed during the lengthy periods between inspections, emphasizing the need for consequences to encourage continuous improvement. Similar concerns are echoed by Walton Pantland, the Director of Organizing, Campaigns, Shipbuilding, and Scrapping at the shipyard workers’ union IndustriALL. Pantland suggests that conditions in Turkish yards are comparable to those in India, with the exception that Turkey has better structural conditions around the shipyards, particularly in terms of access to hospitals.
However, the European Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) refutes these claims, asserting that structural challenges in Indian yards have already been addressed. The disagreement underscores the complexity of evaluating and monitoring shipbreaking conditions across different regions.
Nine Turkish shipyards are currently included in the EU-approved dismantling facilities list, with Turkey emerging as one of the world’s leading nations in ship recycling. Despite this rapid inclusion, skepticism remains regarding the operational practices of Turkish shipyards.
Meling notes the apparent pattern of shipyards working hard to secure EU approval, only to see a decline in quality during the lengthy periods between assessments. She emphasizes the importance of holding shipyards accountable for continuous improvement, urging a more proactive and frequent evaluation approach.
The discussion on ship recycling gains significance as Bimco estimates that over 15,000 ships will be scrapped by 2032, more than double the number in the last decade. Additionally, stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions may lead to the scrapping of older ships in favor of more sustainable alternatives.
In November, the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers reached a new agreement on waste shipments, allowing EU-flagged ships to be dismantled in yards outside the EU and OECD. The EU also imposed stricter regulations on member states to define environmental crimes related to ship recycling more precisely.
The increased focus on ship recycling is expected to exert additional pressure on shipyards in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where a significant percentage of the world’s ship fleet is currently scrapped. However, concerns persist about the working conditions and transparency of shipbreaking operations, particularly in Turkey.
When asked about working conditions at Turkish shipyards, Pantland expresses difficulties faced by IndustriALL in gaining access to these yards, citing issues of union busting in Turkey. In contrast, he notes that India has shown gradual acceptance of workers joining unions.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform echoes these concerns, stating that the state of Turkish scrap yards is questionable. Nicola Mulinaris, Communications Manager at Shipbreaking Platform, emphasizes the serious discrepancies and non-compliant practices revealed in recent EU inspection reports. The EU Commission responds to these concerns, stating that unannounced inspections have been initiated to enhance monitoring.
The ongoing debate underscores the need for a comprehensive and transparent evaluation system to ensure the sustainable and ethical practices of shipbreaking operations globally. As the ship recycling industry continues to expand, addressing these concerns becomes crucial for the well-being of workers and the environment.