NGO raises concern in light of Turkish ship recycling deaths

In the last four months, the Turkish ship recycling industry has been hit by two deaths.

In the last four months, the Turkish ship recycling industry has been hit by two serious accidents. Two workers lost their lives at two separate yards that are included in the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities. Both yards were quick to immediately involve the concerned authorities.

On 3 October 2020, a worker lost his life during the scrapping of two Transocean offshore rigs at Isiksan yard. A handrail broke and fell, hitting the worker at the back of his neck. 

Last week, on 4 February, another worker died when hit by a steel block which he was torch-cutting in the secondary cutting area of Simsekler yard, where a Carnival Corporation’s cruise vessel is currently being recycled. 

“These tragic fatal accidents are a sad reminder that ship recycling is a heavy and hazardous industry that exposes workers to several safety risks. We are closely following the investigations of the yards, as well as those of Turkish authorities, and expect that full transparency is maintained,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

According to the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, EU-flagged vessels have to be recycled in one of the currently 43 approved sites around the world. Seven out of the 22 yards operating in Aliaga have so far received EU approval. 

They recycle only a smaller fraction of the world fleet, but have attracted owners that want to recycle their vessels more responsibly than on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the vast majority of end-of-life vessels end up. 

“The European Commission must ensure that all EU-listed yards operate in line with the requirements of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. Two serious accidents have taken place at two separate EU-approved facilities in Aliaga, and in both cases we have requested that the Commission takes appropriate action to understand whether these sites indeed operate in line with the Regulation,” says Jenssen.

The many risks involved in taking large vessels apart need to be managed at sites that can safely use heavy lifting cranes, contain pollutants and dispose of hazardous materials in line with international waste laws. 

The accident at Simsekler should further prompt a serious evaluation of how mechanical cutting might contribute to reducing risk, including exposure to toxic fumes and release of slag caused by torch cutting.

“There is enormous scope to improve ship recycling practices, both in terms of safety and environmental protection, as well as to boost recycling- and cost-effectiveness by the use of new innovative technologies,” says Jenssen.

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