Ships transport 90% of the world’s traded cargo and hence literally propel the world’s economy. Ships have a lifespan of about 20-30 years, and after that they need to be scrapped.
The process of scrapping ships generate huge amounts of marine pollution, particularly if it happens in countries where environmental regulations for ship-breaking yards are slack.
The number of vessels misleadingly registered to nations other than their true country of origin, called flags of convenience has skyrocketed since 2002. Now, you may ask “Why So?“
Well, besides many other reasons, this practice of Flag of convenience allows ship owners from nations with strict environmental regulations to have their vessels dismantled cheaply, in a way that is very damaging to the environment. Ship owners from wealthy nations, including members of the European Union as well as the United States, South Korea and Japan, control the majority of the world’s merchant shipping fleet. The records reveals that between 2014 and 2018, 80% of these ships were demolished in just 3 nations, where ship-breaking yards have weak environmental, labour and safety regulations — Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
That’s how the ship owners plays the system!
By registering ships abroad, ship owners can also escape taxes and operate substandard vessels, another great reasons for ship owners to practise “flag of convenience.” Between 2002 and 2019, the top flags of convenience shifted from Panama and Liberia to two small island countries, Comoros and Palau, which will issue flags for a fee.
Ship-scrapping in low-income countries comes with fatal health risks and severe environmental pollution, including releases of mercury, lead, asbestos, ozone-depleting substances and pesticides into the soil and sea. As per a study, it is estimated that by 2027, almost 5,000 workers in ship-recycling yards in India will have died from mesothelioma, a malignant tumor caused by inhaling asbestos.