Court of Appeal upholds prison sentence for Norwegian shipowner in the "Harrier" recycling case

In its decision last week, Gulating Court of Appeal upheld Sunnhordaland District Court's conviction of a Norwegian shipowner for participating in an attempt to illegally export the barge carrier "Harrier" and the sentence handed to the shipowner of six months in prison.

The shipowner was convicted for violating the Norwegian Pollution Act's provisions on the export of waste, which incorporates the EU Waste Shipment Regulation (No. 1013/2006), a regulation based on the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

The Court of Appeal found that it had been decided that the "Harrier" (ex "Tide Carrier", ex "Eide Carrier") was going to be beached in Gadani, Pakistan, and that the shipowner's assistance to the cash buyer in preparing the vessel for departure resulted in significant time and cost savings in connection with the export of the ship from Norway.

The ship was arrested in February 2017 when it had an engine breakdown off the Norwegian West Coast, requiring salvage assistance. Even though the vessel had documents indicating it was going to a repair yard in Dubai, the Court of Appeal found this to be a cover story to conceal the real destination which was a beach in Gadani.

Beaching usually refers to the recycling of ships where the ship is deliberately run onto a beach, then broken up in the tidal zone, where no fixed facilities are used for collecting and handling hazardous and polluting waste. The work is often done by manual labour without due regard to the health and safety of the workers.

The Court of Appeal stated that it makes little difference whether the shipowner himself sells the vessel to the scrapper at the beach in Gadani or whether he sells the vessel to a cash buyer and assists with export and scrapping. This means that the punishment for selling to a cash buyer and assisting in the illegal export may give rise to a similar prison sentence as if the shipowner had exported the vessel himself.

Two of the Court of Appeal's seven judges dissented on the question of guilt and found that it had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the shipowner had sufficiently participated in the facilitation of the export. It is not yet clear whether the decision will be appealed.

The case illustrates the importance of complying with waste and recycling regulations when ships and other offshore assets are to be disposed of.

Whilst several beaching cases have reached other European courts in recent years, this is the first one of its kind to be heard in Norway.

Norwegian authorities have stated that they view beaching in South Asia as a significant environmental problem, which Norway – as a major shipping nation – has an obligation to fight.

The decision can be downloaded here (PDF, 500kb).

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