Environmental group Greenpeace has issued a statement saying it was mistaken in allowing its former flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, to be recycled on a beach in Chittagong in Bangladesh.
“We have made a mistake – one that we have tried to correct,” explained Greenpeace in a statement.
“We allowed the Rongdhonu – formerly the Rainbow Warrior II – to be scrapped on a beaching yard in Bangladesh, in a way that does not live up to the standards we set ourselves and campaigned for across the world.”
Greenpeace transferred ownership of Rainbow Warrior II to a Bangladeshi non-governmental organization (NGO) in 2011, when the ship was no longer fit to sail the high seas.
It was then converted into a hospital ship traversing coastal waters and rivers and renamed Rongdhonu (Bengali for rainbow), helping to bring vital health care to more than 160,000 people in some of the world’s most remote communities.
Earlier this year the ship – at 61 years old – the vessel finally reached the end of it viable life.
“When we transferred the ship to the Bangladeshi NGO in 2011 we retained the right of veto on any final disposal plan,” explained Greenpeace in the statement.
“Given its condition, we presumed it would need to be decommissioned in the best way possible in Bangladesh.
“We should have consulted our partners in the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the Basel Action Network. But we did not. No excuse. We should have.
“Over the last week we have been talking with both. They maintain – as does the EU and many other leaders in the field – that breaking ships on beaches is fundamentally unsafe, exploitative of workers and damaging to the marine environment.
“Upon realizing our mistake, we began work to try and find an alternative way for the ship to be decommissioned but this was not possible. The ship was beached and is now being readied to be cut up.”
The vessel is now being recycled at the PHP Family yard in Chittagong.
The PHP Family recycling yard was the first in Bangladesh to receive a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. It was certified by classification society RINA, and in 2017 IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim visited the yard and said it was a role model for others in the country.
This has led to some industry criticism of Greenpeace’s position on the issue.
“I find it very hard to understand how an organization like Greenpeace, which relies on charity and is governed by ethical principles, can ignore the damage it is inflicting by aligning itself to an irrational anti-beaching policy and rhetoric,” argues Dr. Nikos Mikelis, non-executive director of the world’s largest buyer of ships for recycling, GMS.
“Greenpeace selected the most advanced yard in Bangladesh to recycle Rongdhonu, so they must have been aware of the progress that the yard has achieved, the great investment its owner has made in infrastructure, in the training of the workers, and in setting and following safe and environmentally sound working procedures.
“Isn’t that what it is all about? Improved working conditions, improved workers’ safety, improved environmental protection.
“The alternative promoted by Greenpeace seeks an impossible future whereby Rongdhonu and all the end-of-life ships would be recycled in Europe – where no economic justification exists for the recycling of ocean going ships.”