The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has uncovered serious safety and environmental failings at Turkish ship breakers.

The findings of its report will raise questions over the European Union’s continued approval of nine facilities under its Ship Recycling Regulation (SRR) which is intended to set high standards for the recycling of European flag ships.

Most of Turkish recycling is in the Aliaga region. It is the fourth largest shipbreaking country after India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Drawing on recent studies from the Turkish Ministry of Environment and EU inspection reports the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said Turkey’s yards are “heavily polluted with toxic substances”.

Evidence of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, asbestos, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, tributyltin oxide and dieldrin were also found.

There were reports of coastal pollution from ship bilge, ballast water and sludge as well as high concentrations of lead in soil.

There were also discrepancies found between the amount of hazardous materials notified under the shipowner’s inventory of hazardous materials and those reported as handled by shipbreakers.

Several breaking yard owners failed to provide appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing to workers.

Safety measures and techniques were often inadequate and serious irregularities in handling asbestos were also identified.

Despite the hazardous working environment not one case of occupational disease has been reported since Aliaga opened, suggesting that health issues are being underreported.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform said it is concerned about the continued recognition of some yards under the EU SRR despite compliance failings.

“Yards where deficiencies have been identified, often as having persisted over longer periods of time and with no substantial measures seemingly having been taken by the yard to address the lack of compliance with the EU SRR, remain listed as approved,” NGO Shipbreaking Platform said.

“That facilities are on the EU List without meeting mandatory standards is a matter that should be seriously addressed.”

However, it also said that Turkey is capable of sustainable ship recycling, but requires stronger regulation and enforcement.

It said the EU could play a pivotal role in helping yards improve by closer monitoring.

“Whilst this report gives insight to the many challenges that the ship recycling sector in Aliaga currently faces, it also underscores the immense potential for driving forward sustainable ship recycling practices,” NGO Shipbreaking Platform said.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is an independent lobby group aiming to promote safe and environmentally sound recycling practices.