London, Friday, 24 December 2021 -
Officials in India said they are detaining three ships that arrived at Alang scrapyards under false pretenses earlier this month. Government officials announced on December 20 that they intend to seize the vessels now anchored in Bhavnagar's anchorage, where they are checked in and cleared for beaching. It's unclear what India plans to do with the ships now that they've been seized.
The European Union enacted stronger criteria for the demolition of vessels owned or registered within the EU three years ago. All ships exceeding 500 gross tons must be processed through approved recycling facilities, which are currently limited to a few specialist recycling operations in Europe and the yards at Aliaga, Turkey for larger ships. Although intentions to open a recycling facility in Scotland were recently announced, the yards in India have yet to obtain EU licenses.
EU shipowners either engage with a few numbers of licensed yards or sell ships to intermediaries who claim to be acting on behalf of buyers who will manage the ships or claim that the ships will be resold. Despite the objections of NGOs and environmental groups calling on the EU to better police the laws, they frequently make brief stops in the Middle East before arriving in India and beaching. Prosecutors in Iceland recently confiscated records from a shipowner's offices as part of an investigation into the sale of two ships that ended up in Indian yards.
Officials from India's Customs Department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) said on Monday that an examination of papers revealed that three ships landed at the start of the month with forged documents. The Coral, an 18-year-old crude oil tanker that had been registered in Liberia until recently, landed at the anchorage on December 5th. After a sail from the Persian Gulf, it came under the convenience flag of Sao Tome Principe.
According to Indian officials who examined the documentation from the Coral, the ship arrived with an inaccurate IMO identification number, as did a second vessel, the Sea Golden, which arrived at the same time. The vessel was utilizing the identification of a sister ship that was scrapped several years ago in at least one case.
The Harriet, the third vessel, arrived at the anchorage three days later. The ship is "under UN sanctions," according to the documents, though officials declined to elaborate. According to them, all three ships landed with false documentation and were seized.
According to the Indian Express, the Ship Recycling Industries Association, which controls the operations at Alang, it is difficult to inspect a vessel's documentation during the tonnage bidding process. They compared it to buying a used automobile and having to put your trust in the seller. "No ship-recycler will knowingly buy a vessel with fake documentation," said Haresh Parmar, SRIA's joint secretary and a ship-recycler in Alang. These flaws, he claimed, only become apparent when the documents are inspected by officials once the vessel arrives at the anchorage.
Because of the high scrap prices earlier this year, the group reported increasing competition for ships. According to them, the market has remained solid, with a constant stream of ships arriving every month in 2021. They said that over 200 ships have been purchased for demolition, with a record number of passenger ships being acquired this year. They are concerned, however, that iron ore prices are falling and mills are closing in India, which they believe would result in a future slowdown and downturn in the industry.
(Research and reporting by: The Decision Maker Asia editors)