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The public prosecutor in the Netherlands states that suspects have broken the European rules for the export of waste. The managers are active in the Seatrade concern.

An investigation led by the Seaport Police shows that the Seatrade companies have directed deliberately 4 ships from the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg with the intention to dismantle these ships on the beaches in India and Bangladesh. Ships that sail their last voyage by own means can contain large amount of bunker oils, sludges, PCB’s and asbestos. In this particular case it were reefer ships. These reefer installations can contain HCFK’s. Ships that are destined for dismantling should be cleared from hazardous waste in Europe before their departure to dismantling facilities. Export of hazardous waste from the European Community to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey is forbidden by European and international law.

In developing countries, chiefly the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), ships are run ashore on gently sloping sand tidal beaches at high tide so that they can be accessed for disassembly. Manoeuvring a large ship onto a beach at high speed takes skill and daring even for a specialist captain, and is not always successful. Next, the anchor is dropped to steady the ship and the engine is shut down. It takes 50 labourers about three months to break down a normal-sized cargo vessel of about 40,000 tonnes.

The decommissioning begins with the draining of fuel and firefighting liquid, which is sold to the trade. Any re-usable items—wiring, furniture and machinery—are sent to local markets or the trade. Unwanted materials become inputs to their relevant waste streams. Often, in lower income nations, these industries are no better than ship breaking. For example, the toxic insulation is usually burnt off copper wire to access the metal. Some crude safety precautions exist—chickens are lowered into the chambers of the ship, and if the birds return alive, they are considered safe. Workers also do not have proper clothing, footwear and masks.

Sledgehammers and oxy-acetylene gas-torches are used to cut up the steel hull. Cranes are not typically used on the ship, because of costs. Pieces of the hull simply fall off and are dragged inland, possibly aided with a winch or bulldozer. These are then cut into smaller pieces away from the coast. 90% of the steel is re-roll able scrap: higher quality steel plates that are heated and reused as reinforcement bar for construction. The remainder is transported to electric arc furnaces to be melted down into ingots for re-rolling mills. In the re-rolling mills, the heating of painted steel plates (in particular, those painted with chlorinated rubber paints) generates dioxins. Substances which are costly to dispose of, such as hazardous waste, are left on the beach or set on fire, even old batteries and half-empty cans of paint. Stockpiled in Bangladesh, for example, are 79,000 tonnes of asbestos, 240,000 tonnes of PCBs and 210,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances (mainly chlorinated polyurethane foam).

The International Labour Organisation has declared ship dismantling “as the most dangerous job in the world”.

In this lawsuit, the public prosecutor stated that the 3 managers decided to sell the ships for dismantling with the intention to realise extra financial profit. For that reason the Public Prosecutor (PP) claims fines of 750.000€ per company. Against the managers the PP claims an imprisonment of 6 months of which 2 months suspended sentence. On top, the confiscation of the extra profit was claimed.