Greenpeacers Nabbed Protesting Turkish Shipbreaking

IZMIR, Turkey, January 14, 2002 (ENS) - Turkish police arrested 17 Greenpeace activists this morning after they occupied a Swiss ship at a shipbreaking yard in Aliaga, Turkey.

Unfurling a banner that said "Stop Toxic Shipbreaking" from on board the Star of Venice owned by the Swiss company Pan Nautic, the Greenpeacers demanded an end to the practice of scrapping ships that contain toxic materials on Turkish beaches.


Protesters at a shipbreaking yard in Aliaga, Turkey (Photos courtesy Greenpeace)
Before the Turkish police made their arrest and confiscated one of the Greenpeace inflatable boats, the activists painted the words "No Toxic Ship Trade" on a side of another old ship, Best, owned by the Greek company Daglia.

Greenpeace investigation of the shipyards located close to Izmir found that shipbreaking practices in Turkey are comparable to the ones in China, India and Bangladesh. The scrapping process releases toxics, such as dioxins and asbestos, endangering the workers and the environment.

"The situation in the shipbreaking yards on the beaches of Turkey is not better than in India or China," says Marietta Harjono, Greenpeace's shipbreaking expert on board the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior. "We found materials containing asbestos at the yard and at the open dumpsite, where villagers from nearby settlements are searching for valuable materials. The health of the people and the environment are at grave risk."

Asbestos is used as insulation in ships because it is non-flammable and chemically neutral. During the breaking down of ships for scrap, asbestos is released into the air. Exposure to asbestos dust can cause serious lung problems and cancer.

Dioxins are regarded as some of the most toxic substances humans have ever released into the environment, and it is highly carcinogenic. When released into the air, some dioxins may be transported long distances, even around the globe. When released into water, some dioxins are broken down by sunlight, some evaporate to air, but most attach to soil and settle to the bottom sediment.

Dioxin concentrations may build up in the food chain, resulting in measurable levels in animals and humans.


Activists paint slogan on a scrap ship
Greenpeace says at least half the ships being scrapped in Turkey come from Western European operators, so the European Union (EU) should be held accountable.

The EU should demand that the European ship industry remove hazardous substances from ships prior to their export. This demand could be made at the same time when it enforces high environmental and health standards on the EU applicant countries.

Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey are seeking access to the already existing union of 15 European states. Before being admitted to the bloc, they must meet existing EU environmental standars.

Erdem Vardar, toxic waste trade campaigner for Greenpeace Mediterranean, said, "It is unacceptable that the shipping industry gets away with passing hazardous waste to countries like Turkey, leaving the people and the environment exposed to the most dangerous substances known to mankind."


Waste on fire in a shipbreaking yard
"The EU is in a rather schizophrenic position as it aims to enforce high environmental standards on EU applicants but allows, at the same time, the dumping of toxic waste to its own backyard," Vardar said.

The 2nd Global Ship Recycling Summit 2001, held last June and attended by many European environment ministers, concluded, "Ship recycling is an integral part of the life cycle management of ships. Ships have to be recycled at the end of their operational life in a responsible way."

"Ship recycling is an activity which concerns the maritime industries as well as some land based industries. This adds complexity to the problem solving since various stakeholders, also outside the maritime industry, are and have to be involved," declared the public sector decision makers and senior executives of the international shipping industry and ship recycling industry who attended the Summit.

"A long term solution for the ship recycling industry has to based on a binding international legal framework, possibly in the form of a convention. The establishment of such a framework is a time consuming process; it may take up to 10 years. In the meantime a voluntary code of conduct could be used," the Summit concluded.

Up to 100 ships are scrapped every year in Turkey, which has so far failed to implement its ban on imports of hazardous waste, said Vardar. With the 1995 Regulation to Control Hazardous Wastes, Turkey banned the importation of hazardous waste. Under this Regulation the importation of ships for scrap containing hazardous waste is considered as importing hazardous waste and is therefore violation of the ban, the Turkish Ministry of Environment said last year.


Greek oil tanker Kapetan Giorgis is on the Greenpeace watch list.
As part of its campaign against toxic releases by the shipbreaking industry, Greenpeace today launched a new webpage listing 50 ships the environmental organization says are likely to sail to one of Asia's shipbreaking yards in the near future.

Greenpeace has asked the owners of these ships to declare that their ships will be decontaminated before scrapping at Asian countries. The 553 foot long Pacific Princess, made famous by the television series, "The Love Boat, is on the Greenpeace watch list.

Most of these ships belong to Swiss, Greek, Italian, English and Scandinavian companies, but the list includes operators from almost all EU countries as well as Australian and U.S. ones.

Greenpeace is not against scrapping of vessels but wants to ensure that their export is not used as an excuse to dump toxic waste. The environmental organization is demanding that dumping of ships for scrap should be considered as a violation of the international Basel Convention on The Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

The Basel Convention, today the subject of a meeting in Geneva, bans the export of hazardous wastes from the developed countries that make up the membership of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to non-OECD countries. Turkey became a party to the Basel Convention on December 20, 1994.

The 2nd Global Ship Recycling Summit said the ship recycling market is "a certain growth market." By 2010, some 4,000 ships with an aggregate gross tonnage of 24 million tons will be recycled every year. Niko Wijnolst, Summit chairman said, "These figures warrant a structural approach to the ship recycling issue by the maritime industry as a whole and the International Maritime Organization in particular."

The Greenpeace report "Environmental, Health and Safety Conditions in the Aliaga Shipbreaking Yards" can be downloaded from: