The judiciary in northern Germany is increasingly concerned about the scrapping of disused ships on Asian beaches.
In connection with the proceedings against the two managers of the Rendsburg shipowner, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Kiel also became the target of an attack by three managers of the Hamburg shipping company Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG. As intermediaries, they are said to have helped bring the container ship to Alang, India for scrapping. A spokesman for the Kiel prosecutor’s office confirmed the investigation on Wednesday, but did not give any names.
According to research by the NDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, they are said to be the owners of the shipping company Jochen and Christoph Döhle and the managing director Gaby Bornheim. Bornheim has also been President of the Association of German Shipowners (VDR) since December.
The shipping company declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. “We can assure you that we are interested in fully investigating the charges against us and are fully cooperating with the investigating authorities,” she said in writing at the request of the German Press Agency.
The association does not want to give a position
In fact, VDR does not want to comment on the affairs of member companies. “However, it is important that we say that Dr. Bornheim is not being examined as president of the VDR,” the association emphasized. It is a pity that the investigation has already become publicly known. “There is no basis for prejudice.”
Charges have already been brought against two defendants in the Rendsburg case. For the judiciary, this is a “pilot procedure”, said a public prosecutor’s spokesman. As a result, no case of illegal ship scrapping in Germany has previously been brought to court.
The public prosecutor’s office in Hamburg had been investigating several entrepreneurs for a long time due to a similar suspicion. They are said to have sold three ships knowing they had entered an unsecured beach in Pakistan and had been scrapped there under environmentally unsafe circumstances.
Strictly regulated in the EU
Formally, this procedure, known in the “Beach” industry, is a violation of the Waste Shipment Act, which, according to the prosecutor’s office, is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to five years. In the EU, the scrapping of old ships is strictly regulated. They can only be recycled in EU-certified facilities; the installations themselves may also be located outside the Union. Otherwise it would be illegal to export the scrapped ship directly. Problem for investigators: they only have access if they can prove that the ship was taken directly from Germany to an uncertified facility in Asia, for example. Often, complicated vessel ownership can also complicate investigations.
The international NGO Shipbreaking Platform has for years denounced the destruction of the environment, human rights abuses, child labor, disease and deaths, and accidents related to the scrapping of old ships through the Beach. According to the organization, in 2021 alone, 583 of the largest tankers, bulk carriers, floating platforms, cargo and passenger ships landed on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Old ships are – especially in view of the current high steel prices – a welcome commodity for scrap metal traders.
Properly environmentally friendly and safe disposal should long ago be regulated around the world. Since 2009, there has been an international agreement on paper that Germany ratified in 2019. However, this so-called Hong Kong Convention will not enter into force until at least 15 countries with 40 percent of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage join. There are currently 17 countries involved, but they only represent less than 30 percent of the tonnage. According to the World Shipping Organization IMO, only two of the top five ship recycling companies have signed the deal – India and Turkey – while Bangladesh, Pakistan and China have yet to sign. (dpa)