The Dutch Public Prosecution Service has brought criminal charges against Seatrade for selling ships to shipyards in countries with poor working conditions and substandard environmental practices.
The Groningen-based company will be the first in Europe to face criminal charges for beaching vessels.
According to the prosecution office, the Seatrade Group is facing fines of up to EUR 2.35 million (around USD 2.9 million) for breaking up ships on beaches in India and Turkey in violation of the European Waste Shipment Regulations.
A six-month prison sentence for three of Seatrade’s top executives is also being considered.
All four vessels departed on their last voyage to the breaking yards from the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg in the spring of 2012.
Ships sailing to their final destination on their own contain large quantities of hazardous substances such as bunker oil, lubricating oil, PCBs and asbestos. The ships in question were refrigerated vessels, which means they also contain HCFCs. As these hazardous substances were not removed from the ships their sale to India, Bangladesh and Turkey was illegal, the prosecution office said.
The two 1984-built reefers, Spring Bear and Spring Bob ended up at Indian and Bangladeshi breakers respectively.
The 1984-built Spring Panda and Spring Deli were demolished at shipyards in Turkey.
Breaking yards in , Bangladesh and India are infamous for their dangerous working conditions, especially with respect to the removal of hazardous waste. They don’t have the required facilities, meaning that chemical waste, including asbestos, is often dumped at the site.
Seatrade sold the ships via the company Baltic Union Shipbrokers to cash-buyer GMS.
It is thought their decision to use a cash buyer rather than recycling the ships in a safe way, was for financial gain.
Ingvild Jenssen, Founder and Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said:
“Despite ongoing criminal investigations, Seatrade sold two more ships – the Sina and Ellan – for dirty and dangerous breaking on the beach in Alang, India, in August 2017,”
“This case adds itself to the growing demand, including from investors and major shipping banks, for better ship recycling practices.”
Authorities in Norway, Belgium, and the UK will be paying close attention to the verdict of the case. Similar cases are currently being investigated there, involving shipping companies such as Maersk and CMB, as well as the world’s largest cash-buyers GMS and Wirana.
The case is being heard in a Rotterdam Court this week.