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GMS hits out over BBC documentary on ship recycling industry

Photo: Leela Modernized ship recycling facility - Leela yard.png
Leela Ship Recycling yard
GMS, the world’s largest cash buyer of ships destined for recycling, has lambasted a BBC team of investigative journalists reports containing ‘misinformation and incorrect views of the ship recycling industry’ in Alang, India.

BBC Disclosure had run a documentary called “Breaking Bad: Uncovering the Oil Industry’s Dirty Secret” on March 16. GMS highlighted one-sided interviews, biased reporting and ‘an onslaught of misinformation’.

Ironically, the BBC team picked on the world’s largest ship recycling region where many facilities have been involved recently in pioneering efforts to raise standards, improve health and safety, training, environmental performance and labour conditions. These initiatives are partly the result of an industry-wide drive to improve conditions in the ship recycling business which, to be fair, have had a poor track record for many year.

Ship recycling is, nevertheless, an essential supplier of steel and a vital source of employment in various locations including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey although COVID-19 has shut down this vital link in shipping’s supply chain for the moment.

Meanwhile, regulators have focused on the initiatives to raise standards including the IMO’s Hong Kong Convention which, though still not ratified, has led to improved  working conditions in many recycling yards. Many shipowners must already comply with requirements laid down in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation; others will have to do so in future.

In its statement at the end of last week, GMS pointed out that nearly 80 of the 120 recycling facilities in Alang have already been awarded Hong Kong Convention Statement of Compliance certification from classification society members of the International Association of Classification Societies including ClassNK, Indian Register of Shipping, Lloyd’s Register and RINA. Surprisingly, none of the class societies were interviewed by the BBC team.    

GMS itself had provided written responses to the BBC team’s questions, it said, “most of which do not seem to have been taken into account”.

The cash buyer also noted that the journalists had chosen to interview Ms Ingvild Jenssen, founder and director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a long-time critic of the recycling sector despite the improvements that have been made. “The article fails to include a single interview from any individual or organisation who would present a counterpoint to dispute the negative claims made in the report,” GMS said.

The team also picked a human rights lawyer, GMS said, who appeared not to understand ‘the correct inner workings and structures of the industry”.

They said it seemed that the BBC team had also failed to understand GMS’ role in the recycling of three Diamond Offshore oil rigs, previously stacked in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland. As agents in the ship recycling supply chain, GMS were not owners of the rigs at any time, a fact the BBC team failed to understand. 

No comment has been available yet from the BBC.