ENDS – Owners could find loopholes in proposed shipbreaking rules

(Written by Alex Marshall)

April 2012 - The European Commission is proposing to tighten recycling rules for EU-registered ships. But they appear to rely on ship owners’ goodwill.

The proposed regulation would implement an International Maritime Organization convention on ship recycling, agreed in 2009 (ENDS Report 413, p49). The EU is taking actionindependently because the convention is not expected to come in to force until 2020. This will be too late to cope with a spike in ship scrappings due to the recession and restrictions on single-hulled tankers, which enter force in 2015.

Under the commission’s proposal, large commercial ship owners would need to have a certified inventory of hazardous materials on board, and minimise them before the ship is recycled.

They will have to inform member states before a vessel is scrapped and ensure it is broken up at an EU-approved facility that meets minimum environmental standards.

Most ship-breaking takes place at poor quality and highly polluting facilities in countries such as Bangladesh. Vessels are often ‘beached’ on tidal flats and then broken up.

But the proposals do little to stop ships being sold on, or changing flags, to avoid the rules. Member states must introduce “effective… and dissuasive penalties” to guarantee proper recycling, the regulation says. But ship owners on-selling vessels will only be penalised if the vessel is scrapped within six months.

Owners can also avoid a penalty if they prove that it was not sold for scrap.

Small non-ocean going ships and military vessels are usually broken up in EU or OECD countries and will not be subject to the regulation, the Commission says.