Dawn – EU regulations may hit Gadani shipbreaking

(Written by Mubarak Zeb Khan)

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30 January 2015 – ISLAMABAD: Pakistan received 111 vessels in 2014 for dismantling as against 105 vessels in 2013 and 124 in 2012, according to data compiled by the Shipbreaking Platform, a global coalition of environmental and human rights organisation.

Globally 1,026 ships were dismantled in 2014 compared to 1,213 ships in 2013.

In South Asia, the figure stood at 641 in 2014 as against 645 in 2013. India received 304 vessels for dismantling in 2014 as against 347 in 2013, and 496 in 2012. Bangladesh dismantled 225 ships in 2014 as against 193 in 2013 and 230 in 2012.

An official in the ministry of environment told Dawn on condition of anonymity that Pakistan’s shipbreaking yard at Gadani can be hit by the new European Union ship recycling regulations. It is also facing tough competition from China and Turkey which receive maximum number of ships for recycling because of their advanced setups for dismantling.

At present, 68 plots are operational at the Gadani Shipbreaking Yard, which are run by 38 operators and employ more than 12,000 workers.

“South Asia is still preferred dumping ground for most ship owners as environmental, safety and labour rights standards are poorly enforced there,” said Patrizia Heidegger, Exe­cutive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“Ship-owners sell their ships to the beaching yards for considerably greater profit than the price they could obtain by cooperating with modern ship recycling facilities.”

According to Pakistani officials, thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste is piling up at Gadani. There is an urgent need to put in place facilities to take care of this waste, which endangers environment and threatens health of workers.

In this context, Pakistan has ratified the Basel Convention. However, a compliance instrument has yet to be established. Further­more, the enforcement of laws like the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997, the Factories Act 1934 and the Pakistan Penal Code, which are already in place, is very weak.

Pakistan will need to focus on the implementation of rules to comply with the EU standards to save the shipbreaking industry from a complete collapse. The industry pays around Rs5 billion in taxes annually.

As per report of the Shipbreaking platform, out of a total of 1,026 ships dismantled globally in 2014, 641 — representing 74pc of the total gross tonnage (GT) scrapped — were sold to substandard facilities where ships are dismantled directly on tidal beaches.

“None of the South Asian yards comply with international standards for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling,” said the report.

After the 18th amendment, the government needs to remove the overlapping responsibilities between the national and provincial governments, and ensure implementation of regulations.