The Rotterdam District Court in the Netherlands sentenced Groningen-based owner Seatrade for illegal exports of vessels sent for scrapping on beaches of South Asia as the company’s move breached the EU Waste Shipment Regulation.
Seatrade has been imposed with fines ranging between EUR 50,000 to EUR 750,000. Furthermore, two of its executives have been banned from exercising the profession as director, commissioner, advisor or employee of a shipping company for one year. A third director has been acquitted. The prison sentence, previously sought by the prosecution, has been waived amid the company’s lack of a previous criminal record which was accepted as a mitigating factor.
The court said that the conviction concerns the illegal transfer of four reefer ships from the European Union to initially India. When these ships left the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg in 2012, the intention was already to demolish the ships which makes the ships categorized as waste, despite the fact that they were still seaworthy, certified, insured and operational.
It was determined that Seatrade knowingly sold the vessels for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximize profits.
For the first time, a European shipping company has been held criminally liable for having sold vessels for scrap to substandard shipbreaking yards in India and Bangladesh, where, as widely acknowledged and according to the Prosecutor, “current ship dismantling methods endanger the lives and health of workers and pollute the environment”. The Prosecutor’s request that the Seatrade executives face prison was only waived in light of this being the first time such criminal charges had been pressed.
This groundbreaking judgement sets a European-wide precedent for holding ship owners accountable for knowingly selling vessels, via shady cash-buyers, for dirty and dangerous breaking in order to maximize profits.
Sources and futher information
- World Maritime News
- NGO Shipbreaking Platform
- Press release: Dutch Prosecution Office charges Seatrade for beaching ships (in Dutch)