In mid-July, a judgment was handed down by a Rotterdam Court in the Netherlands, convicting the Dutch shipping company Jumbo and two of its directors for their involvement in the illegal export of an end-of-life ship to Turkey for recycling.
The verdict was issued for the breach of the notification procedures under the European Waste Shipment Regulation. The court imposed a fine of 25,000 euros on ship owner Jumbo, while the directors were individually fined 2,500 euros. The Public Prosecution Service had initially sought community service for the directors and a fine of 100,000 euros for the company.
The ruling addressed the sale of two end-of-life ships in 2014 and 2015. In both instances, Jumbo had failed to submit the notification documents that guarantee the informed consent for the cross-border movement of end-of-life vessels, which are considered hazardous waste under EU and international law. However, in one of the cases, the defendants were acquitted as the ship was found to be situated outside EU waters at the time of the decision to sell the it for scrap.
Ingvild Jenssen, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, says: “We applaud Dutch authorities for their continued efforts to crack down on the illegal trafficking of toxic ships. This particular case, however, sadly showcases how easily ship owners can avoid being held accountable by simply moving the vessel outside EU waters prior to selling for scrap.
“Where the ship is located should thus not be the only factor relevant to determine jurisdiction. Indeed, vessels are intended to move internationally, and in the Jumbo case the decision to scrap was taken by a company domiciled in the Netherlands, with headquarters in Schiedam.”
In the last eight years, several ship owners and individuals have been held liable by Dutch courts for breaching international and European waste laws.
More cases are under criminal investigation in other EU Member States, including Germany, where more than 100 police officers raided the offices of renowned Hamburg-based shipping companies in 2021.
Last year, the Norwegian Supreme Court confirmed the sentencing of six months to prison for a ship owner that had attempted to scrap a vessel in Pakistan.
Yet, the majority of European shipping companies that keep scrapping old tonnage at substandard shipbreaking yards are still treated with impunity as they take advantage of loopholes in existing laws.
“The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling for a review of the EU law applicable to end-of-life vessels that will effectively ensure that ship owners are held accountable in their own jurisdictions. Dirty and dangerous shipbreaking is a serious environmental crime and enforcement authorities must be given the means to effectively stop illicit practices of EU-domiciled companies,” adds Jenssen.
Photo credit: iStock/ May Lim