25 October 2012 - EU environment ministers support plans to ensure the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships but a debate on Thursday showed they disagree on the details.
Countries such as Spain, Germany and Sweden want the proposed regulation to apply by a specific date, rather than when the condition proposed by Cyprus EU presidency is met. France suggests it should happen within two years of publication.
However, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and Bulgaria want it to apply on the entry into force of the 2009 Hong Kong convention on ship recycling, which could be years ahead. The draft regulation aims to implement the convention.
The disagreement is caused by concerns that early implementation could harm the competitiveness of European shipping and ports. But further extending the regulation to cover non-EU ships, as backed by the ministers, would help address the risk of EU vessels changing flag before being recycling.
The risk would also be mitigated by providing a financial incentive to retain a member states’ flag before recycling, as supported by Poland and parliamentary rapporteur Carl Schylter. The MEP will publish his recommendations shortly.
Environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg were also split on including requirements going beyond the Hong Kong convention, such as a European list of recycling facilities in developing countries that may accept EU-flagged ships.
Green groups have warned that permitting their export would clash with the continued application of the Basel convention on hazardous waste exports to EU ships, which a number of countries including Germany and Finland want to maintain.
The member states also significantly weakened rules on penalties for non-compliance proposed by the European Commission, which was a disappointment for environment commissioner Janez Potočnik. The presidency text merely says that non-compliant ships “may be warned, fined, detained, dismissed or excluded from EU ports”.