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  October 1st, 2015 | Written by

Matson Adopts Safe Ship Recycling Policy

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  • Matson has committed to recycle its old ships only in responsible yards in the future.
  • The Matson-owned Horizon Trader was sold for substandard scrapping in India.
  • NGOs, shipbreaking yards in India operate under dangerous and polluting conditions.

The non-governmental organization Shipbreaking Platform applauded the U.S. shipping company Matson, Inc. for committing to recycle its old ships only in responsible yards in the future.

This decision is significant, says, the NGO, as 23 vessels in the Matson fleet have to be dismantled in the coming years.

The Matson decision came after the Basel Action Network (BAN), U.S.-based member of Shipbreaking Platform, revealed the sale of the Matson-owned Horizon Trader for substandard scrapping in India. Shipbreaking Platform and BAN called on All Star Metals of Brownsville, Texas, the last holder of Horizon Trader, to return the ship and ensure the clean and safe recycling of the vessel.

The Horizon Trader, a 42 year-old U.S. flagged container ship was acquired by Matson when the carrier purchased Horizon Lines late last year. A decision was made to scrap the vessel and it was delivered to the All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas, in January 2015. The original Horizon Lines memorandum of agreement for the sale of the Horizon Trader, obtained by BAN, stipulated that the buyer would responsibly recycle the vessel in the U.S.

According to the NGOs, shipbreaking yards in India operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to dismantle the vessels, breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos, and fall victim to accidents. They live in shacks close to the yards often without basic sanitary facilities or supply with drinking water. Asbestos removed from the vessels is traded in local marketplaces.

“The conditions in the shipbreaking yards are not line with international standards for environmentally sound management, occupational health and safety rules, and fundamental labor rights,” said Patrizia Heidegger, director of Shipbreaking Platform. “If Indian shipbreakers want to be part of a global industry providing services to international shipping companies that are more and more conscious of environmental and social issues, they have to live up to these standards.”

The HORIZON TRADER was photographed on September 2nd being towed out of the Port of Brownsville with fresh paint on the ship’s hull masking the identity of the vessel. BAN notified Matson and asked the company to recall the ship, and the carrier claimed it no longer had the authority to do so.

Matson later released the following statement: “Because of concerns with recycling practices in South Asia, Matson has decided to expressly prohibit recycling of its vessels in this region going forward.” “While the export of the Horizon Trader may be legal according to U.S. law, it outsources pollution and U.S. jobs to Asia and is highly irresponsible,” said Colby Self, green ship recycling campaigner at the Basel Action Network.

A growing number of shipowners—including the 160 members of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and the carriers Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk Lines, Royal Dutch Boskalis, CSL Group, and China Navigation Company—prohibit ships to be scrapped on South Asian beaches.

“Matson’s off-the-beach commitment reflects a level of corporate leadership which we hope will be echoed by other U.S. shipping companies,” said Self.

Self noted that the U.S. government has maintained a long-standing policy requiring its own ships to be recycled domestically and off beaches. But U.S. law allows private shipowners to reflag their vessels for disposal on foreign shipbreaking beaches.