The Brazilian CONTTMAF trade union federation and its member SINDMAR have recently criticised the shipbreaking practices of Petrobras for sending toxic end-of-life vessels for recycling on South Asian beaches.

Image © NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The Brazilian CONTTMAF (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Transportes Aquaviários e Aéreos, na Pesca e nos Portos) trade union federation and its member SINDMAR (Sindicato Nacional dos Oficiais da Marinha Mercante, a part of the confederacy, and the maritime officers’ union) have recently criticized the shipbreaking practices of Transpetro, the oil and gas transportation subsidiary of the mainly state-owned Brazilian petroleum corporation Petrobras, for sending toxic end-of-life vessels for recycling on South Asian beaches.

According to NGO Shipbreaking Platform, in the last five years, more than 20 vessels owned by the oil and gas giant have been dismantled on the beaches of India and Pakistan, where shipbreaking activities endanger both workers and the environment.

In an official letter sent on 2 June 2017 to Transpetro, Severino Almeida, president of CONTTMAF and SINDMAR, expressed his serious concerns about the Petrobras’ poor end-of-life fleet management.

Several of the ships that ended up in South Asia were built thanks to financing provided by the Merchant Marine Fund. Shipbreaking Platform pointed out that in other words, public money has therefore been used to build ships that now put workers’ lives at risk and pollute the environment in developing countries.

The organisation also noted that according to maritime databases, at least six more units owned by Petrobras have already been sold for demolition but are still in Brazilian territorial waters.

Four drill platforms were bought in a public auction by the cash-buyer Rota Shipping which is said to exclusively deliver to Turkish yards and was able to offer just $180,000 more than Alfa Ship Trading, a cash-buyer said to only send to India. On the other hand, the product tanker LOBATO and the liquefied petroleum gas carrier GUAPORE have been sold by Petrobras to Indian breakers.

Shipbreaking Platform said that it has alerted Brazilian authorities about the imminent illegal exports under Basel Convention’s rules of these two vessels, currently located at Rio de Janeiro Anchorage. To date, no reply has been received.

As published recently by SINDMAR, and based on data collected by the Platform, Petrobras is not the only Brazilian company involved in dirty and dangerous scrapping practices.

In the last two years, the Brazilian multinational corporation Vale, engaged in metals and mining, has also sold five ships to shipbreaking beaches in Bangladesh and Pakistan, where at least 79 workers were severely injured and 55 died in 2016. 35 year-old worker Mukhlesur was crushed to death as he and his co-workers were moving a large metal slab from the Vale’s ORE TIMBOPEBA at Mak Corporation Ship Breaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

“It is unacceptable that Petrobras and other Brazilian companies contribute to the deaths and environmental pollution in South Asia,” said Nicola Mulinaris, Communication and Policy Officer of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Carlos Müller, CONTTMAF’s and SINDMAR’s Director added: “In order to ensure clean and safe ship recycling off the beach, we demand stricter requirements for the public auctions of Petrobras’ end-of-life vessels and the enforcement of international legislation on hazardous waste exports. The vessels could even be recycled in Brazil.”

A committee coordinated by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, with the presence of the Brazilian Navy and Petrobras itself, is now considering the possibility to include ship recycling in the scope of national regulation NR 34, which sets environmental and safety requirements for ship building and offshore constructions, including repair activities.

“Widening the scope of regulation NR 34 is certainly a step in the right direction. Should Brazil be serious about starting to use the dormant national ship recycling capacity, we call on all interested Brazilian yards to follow the standards set in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation and to apply to be included in the upcoming EU List of approved ship recycling facilities,” concluded Mulinaris.

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