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EU must prevent environmental catastrophe in Asia

European Union must guarantee clean ship breaking to prevent environmental catastrophe in Asia

Amsterdam, Valetta, 14 April 2005 - A week after the global ban on single hull oil tankers there are still such ships that operate outside the law on seas worldwide. As a matter of fact, nobody knows how many of these should be out of waters as of 5th April 2005 - neither the industry, nor the authorities (1). Most of these so-called 'end-of-life ships' will be heading to Asia and Turkey to be scrapped, causing human and environmental catastrophe. Greenpeace is calling on the European Union to end the lack of transparency in shipping and to develop a definitive and consolidated list of single-hull oil tankers that are subject to the phase-out regulations.

"The European Union pushed for the phase-out but 'forgot' to provide measures for ensuring safe and clean breaking of these ships," said Marietta Harjono of Greenpeace. "There's a need for immediate commitment from EU transport ministers and the European Commission that the toxic burden of Europe's single-hull oil tankers will not end up on Asian beaches."

Greenpeace research (2) shows that the burden of 'toxic ships' dumped on Asian beaches will increase in the coming years. The phase out entered into force on 5 April, with more than 2,000 oil tankers now slated to be decommissioned over the next five years (3). Within Europe Malta is the leading country with over 80 single hull oil tankers either owned or flagged there.

Activists of the international environmental organisation today called on the Maltese Government to guarantee the clean decommissioning of single hulled oil tankers and to bring the issue onto the agenda of 21 April meeting of the European Union Transport Council. The activists hung a banner on top of the gate of the Maltese Ministry for Competitiveness and Communications today demanding 'Clean Shipbreaking NOW!'.

Greenpeace demands that the Maltese government and other EU member states act to solve this problem and end the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" approach to European shipbreaking. In a meeting last week with Greenpeace, the Minister for Trade and Industry of Gibraltar promised to immediately investigate implementing stricter control on single hulls oil tankers and promised to cooperate to prevent the illegal export of these tankers to Asia for breaking.

"The ministers of the European Union now have the opportunity to bring the scandal of shipbreaking under control and put a stop to dangerous exports of toxic tankers to Asia - for once and for all" finished Harjono.

Notes to editors
(1) Tankers in Transition, 2004, Clarkson Research Studies, September 2004.
"As we will demonstrate in this report, the Category I fleet is not clearly defined, and neither IMO nor Intertanko know which vessels comply with the 5th April deadline." (Summary, page 1)
"Althogh this (regulations) seems straightforward there has been much debate as to exactly how much tonnage will have to go by end-2005. Recent figures quoted form differenr sources have out the figure at anywhere between 18 m and 29m." (Amd Page 33)
(2) The Greenpeace-analysis 'Destination Unknown: European single hull oil tankers... No place to go' reveals the staggering collective oil cargo onboard the ships to be banned by the end of 2005. This cargo - 130 million litres - equals to more than two 'Prestige' disasters. The ships also contain asbestos, heavy metals, PCBs and the toxic organic tin compound tributyl tin (TBT) for which regulations in industrialised countries require mandatory eye, skin and lung protection for any contact work. No such regulations are enforced in developing world shipbreaking yards.
Report can be downloaded from
(3) The 2000 oil tankers that need to get out of the water the coming 5 years will not only increase the pressure on existing shipbreakig yards leading to more deaths and environmental pollution but also threaten to turn clean beaches into toxic graveyards. A current example of this is Kakinada beach, Andhra Pradesh, India. For more information please see

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