UK’s expired cruise ships being scrapped in India: Report

London, Mar 2 (PTI) British cruise ships that are no longer meant for use are finding their way to India to be scrapped, according to a media report on Tuesday.

Ships at the end of their lives are considered hazardous waste and it is illegal to send them to developing countries from the UK. But months after being sold at auction to buyers outside the UK they are then sold on as scrap, according to a new File on 4′ investigative show for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

As these vessels were set to be used for further trading when they leave UK waters, their arrival in India does not break the British law.

Among these are the Marco Polo and the Magellan, which were sold at auction in November 2020 after their owners Cruise and Maritime Voyages went into administration.

The Marco Polo, built in the 1960s, made its final voyage to Alang in Gujarat, referred to as the “world’s largest ship graveyard”.

The ship was reportedly bought at auction for around 2 million pounds by offshore company Highseas Ltd, which said the cruise ship would be used as a floating hotel in Dubai. But two months after taking ownership of the Marco Polo, it was sold as scrap for around 4 million pounds, the BBC report claims.

HighSeas Ltd told the programme that it was always their intention the Marco Polo would be sold to new owners “but regrettably, the intended buyers in Dubai refused to take delivery”.

Meanwhile, the Magellan, which was meant to be used as a floating hotel in Liverpool in England, was bought at the auction by a Greek ship owner.

Brokers say it was sold on for scrap after no new buyer was found.

There are serious concerns about the environmental impact and working conditions in the ship-breaking industry across South Asia, as each year around 800 ships come to the end of their lives and need to be broken apart and recycled.

The organisation Ship-breaking Platform has documented the deaths of more than 400 workers on beaches since 2009. It has recorded fatal accidents in the yards from workers falling from height and being killed in gas explosions, as well as longer-term sickness from exposure to toxic materials such as asbestos.

“There is a lot of value in these vessels because they contain large amounts of steel,” Ingvild Jenssen, director of Ship-breaking Platform, told the programme.

“But they also contain large amounts of hazardous materials: asbestos; heavy metals; lead, and many materials you need to take large precautions when you’re dealing with them,” she said.

Ship recycling consultant Sea2Cradle says asbestos is not treated as a hazardous material in India.

The UK government said: “The illegal export of waste is a significant threat to the global environment, and those convicted could face two years in prison or an unlimited fine.”

‘Shipping’s Dirty Secret’ is set to be aired on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday evening and repeated on Sunday.