Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network have raised the alarm about the dangerous process of dismantling and recycling industrial ships, particularly by Norway, Japan and Greece (see "Ship Recycling," Currents, May/June 2003). Old vessels are sent to developing regions, predominantly in Asia, where they are dismantled on the cheap, often at a significant cost to the environment and human health. Underpaid and often unskilled workers come into contact with dangerous substances such as asbestos, mercury, lead and PCBs. "It is estimated that there is a death each day on the brutal breaking beaches of Asia, and all that is necessary to prevent most of these deaths is for the industry to decontaminate the ships in developed countries prior to export," says Basel Action coordinator Jim Puckett."The global shipping industry to this day operates as the last of the dump-and-run cowboys, refusing to recognize that it is criminal to allow a free trade in life-impairing pollution," says Puckett. In February, Greenpeace issued a report outlining the minor financial commitment needed to implement ethical and environmentally responsible ship recycling.
— Kimberly Jordan Allen