A NORTH Sea oil company has been accused of profiting from a deadly and toxic industry after two of its oil rigs ended up being scrapped on a beach in India.

Rigs from Diamond Offshore, a leading offshore drilling firm with major bases in Aberdeen and the US, are said to have ended up in shipbreaking yards in Alang, India - sites which campaigners claim have led to the deaths of 137 people and caused “massive” damage to the environment.

According to BBC Scotland’s Disclosure programme, the company sold five rigs containing toxic waste to another firm, Global Marketing Systems (GMS) in 2017.

GMS is said to have sold on two rigs to the controversial Alang shipbreaking yards, while the other three have been detained in the Cromarty Firth by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) because it believed they were also bound for India.

UK and international law prevents the movement of waste from the UK to developing countries.

Sepa chief executive Terry A’Hearn told the BBC the three rigs will remain in Scotland until it is satisfied they are “going to the right place, where [they] can be handled properly.”

He added, “Our preference is that waste stays in Scotland and gets dealt with” and that companies like Diamond Offshore have a “duty of care” under the law “make sure that they’re giving their material to someone who’s going to be doing the right thing with it.”

Companies seeking to sell their retired ships or rigs often use cash buyers, or “middlemen” like GMS, which has been accused of flouting international laws by selling to shipbreaking yards with poor safety records in south Asia.

Shipbreaking yards in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have much lower costs than approved recycling yards in Europe, and pay a much higher premium for ships and rigs due to be scrapped.

“The cash buyer is simply an intermediary, and is there, we believe, to try and avoid liability. To put something between [the seller] and the beach,” said Oliver Holland, a human rights lawyer.

The shipbreaking industry in South Asia is often criticised by campaigners over its safety and environmental record. Ships and rigs are effectively rammed up onto the beach where they are dismantled by armies of migrant workers from the north of India, using acetyline torches.

Ingvild Jenssen, from campaign group Shipbreaking Platform, told BBC Disclosure the environmental impact was “massive”.

She said: “Western shipping companies are earning millions of dollars… exploiting poor practices in South Asia.

“Workers lack proper protective equipment. Many accidents will be caused by the crashing of the massive steel plates, the falling of workers from great heights or gas explosions.”

“Many more workers succumb to occupational diseases and cancers years after they’ve worked at the yards because they are exposed on a daily basis to toxic fumes [and] materials at the yards,” Ms Jenssen added.

Diamond Offshore said its sales contracts require, “those that we contract with to comply with all applicable laws”, including in the “preparation, transport and recycling of rigs”.

“The rigs ceased to be part of the Diamond fleet more than two years ago and we are therefore not in a position to comment on the current status or future plans for these rigs.”

GMS denied it owned the rigs in Cromarty Firth or was about to move them to India in breach of regulations.

GMS said of the recycling of the Ocean Alliance in Alang: “To suggest [it] was done contrary to the highest Corporate Social Responsibility standards which GMS proudly...adheres to…could not be further from the truth.”