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Scrapping a ship in an unapproved yard & owners' liability for death of workers

Scrapping the ship in an unapproved or uncertified yard? English court’s decision in The Ekta [2020] may just have added another element to ship owners' worries.

Owners sold the vessel to demolition cash buyers who agreed to demolish her in a scrap yard that will perform demolition in a safe manner. The vessel ended up being beached in Bangladesh. A yard worker fell to his death and his widow brought a case against the owner’s alleging that such an incident was foreseeable and that they owed her husband a duty of care which required them to take reasonable steps in negotiating disposal at a yard which had more than scant regard for human life. Owners asked to strike out the claim.

The court refused owners' application. It was overly restrictive to say that the danger was created solely by the employers of the deceased without considering the standard of due diligence required by owners. Although sending ships to such yards is a widespread practice, it was inherently dangerous & cannot be condoned as rational, the court said.

It may seem a little far-fetched to many but what if owners have a duty of care as they can control where the ship is scrapped by cash buyers, although we may never get an answer unless this case goes ahead or another one comes to court.

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