Just as the goods they transport, ships too become waste when they reach the end of their operational lives. Yet only a fraction of end-of-life ships, full of toxic materials, are handled in a safe and clean manner. The vast majority is simply broken down – by hand – on the beaches of South Asia. There, unscrupulous shipping companies exploit minimal enforcement of environmental and safety rules to maximise profits.

Clean and safe ship recycling

Moving shipbreaking off beaches and onto proper industrial platforms is one essential step towards clean and safe practices. Guaranteeing the rights of workers is another. Therefore, the upcoming European Parliament should:

1. Uphold European standards for clean and safe ship recycling

The EU Ship Recycling Regulation is now fully applicable. From 31 December 2018, EU-flagged commercial vessels must be recycled in safe and environmentally sound ship recycling facilities that are included on the European List of approved ship recycling facilities. To be included in the List, ship recycling facilities have to comply with a number of safety and environmental requirements. Facilities that would never be allowed to operate in an EU Member State should not be added to the List – only companies that have invested in proper infrastructure and procedures should be rewarded with approval. There is no need to succumb to the pressure of the shipping industry stakeholders that by all means want to make us believe that they have to continue to scrap ships on beaches, pollute and put workers lives at risk because there is no other option.

2. Make the polluter pay

We call on the European Parliament to support a legislative proposal that introduces an effective financial incentive to implement the polluter pays principle and that supports clean and safe ship recycling in line with the standard set by the European Ship Recycling Regulation. The effective implementation of European environmental policies relies on making the ‘polluter pay’. If the EU is serious about its commitment to sustainable ship recycling, all ship owners trading in European waters need to be held financially accountable. It is time for the shipping industry to internalize the costs currently borne by the environment and the health of vulnerable communities in the Global South.

3. Spur innovation in ship building and ship recycling

Green ship design reduces the hazardous materials in new-builds and minimizes waste by planning for efficient dismantling in the future. A circular cradle-2-cradle approach could provide new opportunities in former European ship building regions that have experienced downturns. In line with the aims of creating a Circular Economy, boosting ship recycling in Europe will not only create green jobs but also provide quality scrap steel for European steel makers and valuable second-hand ship parts for repair yards. Public procurement policies should reward the use of materials obtained through clean and safe ship recycling.

For more information about the issue, please visit our website


2018 Shipbreaking Records

Behind the Hypocrisy of Better Beaches

EU-listed Yards Can Handle the Recycling Demand of EU-flagged Ships

Political Parties On Issues

  • European People's Party
  • Socialists and Democrats
  • ALDE
  • European Greens
  • European Free Alliance
  • ECR Group
  • European Left



The On Our Watch project brings together Civil Society Organisations working on all kind of topics. As representatives of and in direct contact with citizens, organisations have a strong role to play in holding the European Parliament accountable to the public. By joining forces in the context of the #EUelections2019 (23-26 May), On Our Watch offers a comprehensive overview of the key issues that European citizens care about.

Want to join? Get in touch! Contact: christian.skriverik[@]  | Address: Place du Luxembourg 2, B-1050, Brussels | Phone: +32 2 508 30 83