On January 31, Texas-based Exxon Mobil and its wholly owned subsidiary SeaRiver Maritime sold the S/R Long Beach, a 1987 U.S. built single-hulled tanker (sister ship to the notorious Exxon Valdez) to a Chinese shipbreaking facility. Exxon's move to dismantle the Long Beach in Asia is at odds with their December 2011 decision to recycle another tanker, the S/R Wilmington, in Brownsville, Texas. That earlier decision was applauded by domestic industry and environmental organizations alike for creating green recycling jobs in the U.S. while also remaining consistent with the decisions of the United Nation's Basel Convention, which prohibits the export of toxic wastes from developed to developing countries. Old tankers contain many toxic materials and are usually deemed as hazardous waste under international law. Exxon's most recent waste export move, however, has been criticized by global toxic trade watchdog organization Basel Action Network (BAN).
"Sadly, Exxon Mobil has reverted to outsourcing toxic waste and good recycling jobs to China simply to save a buck. We urge the company to reaffirm its commitment to only send their obsolete fleet to safe and environmentally responsible ship recycling facilities in developed countries, in country if possible. Here in the US, we have safe, effective, affordable recycling facilities that deserve the work. It would also create hundreds of US jobs," said Colby Self, Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director for the Basel Action Network.
While labor and environmental conditions in China have improved compared to others such as the infamous shipbreaking beaches of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, China still lacks the environmental and labor protections and downstream waste management capacity that exist in developed countries like the U.S.
"Exxon needs to affirm a policy of recycling toxic ships in developed countries, and we stand ready to assist them in finding green recycling yards in the North America and Europe," said Colby Self.
BAN is part of the global NGO Shipbreaking Platform which seeks global compliance with the Basel Convention, seeks to end destructive beach shipbreaking practices, and seeks to promote responsible green ship recycling.