Laws and Guidelines

On 30 December 2013, a new European Regulation on ship recycling that sets standards for the recycling of EU-flagged ships entered into force. The Regulation will be applicable by the latest 2019 and will remove EU-flagged ships from the scope of the 2006 Waste Shipment Regulation. It asks the European Commission to establish a global list of ship recycling facilities that comply with the requirements of the Regulation and requires that all ships entering EU ports have an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) on-board The NGO Shipbreaking Platform welcomes that the EU has set high standards for ship recycling that also include proper downstream waste management and international labour rights. To ensure that the objective of the Regulation is met – the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships – it is however crucial that a financial incentive based on the polluter pays principle and applicable to all ships entering EU ports is added to the Regulation. The European Commission is asked by the Regulation to assess possible financial incentives and make by end 2016 a legislative proposal, if deemed appropriate. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is actively contributing to this work.

For more information see:
Platform’s Policy Paper from May 2015
Platform’s report “What a difference a flag makes : Why ship owners’ responsibility to ensure sustainable ship recycling needs to go beyond flag state jurisdiction” April 2015
Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on ship recycling

European Union policy making

At the European level, the European Waste Shipment Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 still prohibits the export of hazardous waste, including ships, from the European Union to non-OECD countries. Due to the ease with which ship owners are able to circumvent this legislation and also prompted by the demands of NGOs globally, the European Commission announced already in 2006 that they would as a matter of priority look at how to strengthen the implementation of the law and stop the export of end-of-life ships with a close link to the EU to substandard breaking yards.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and European Environmental Bureau (EEB), and the more than 160 environmental, human and labour rights organisations they represent, welcomed the fact that the new Regulation bans the use of beaching facilities for EU-flagged ships, but warned that unless a financial incentive is added, the Regulation will fail to change the current unacceptable practices .

Positive aspects

The NGOs welcomed that the Council accepted the European Parliament’s proposal to bind all ships calling at EU ports to have an inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) that are contained within the vessels’ structure, a prerequisite for clean and safe ship recycling.

The Parliament also succeeded in convincing the Council to support requirements for ship recycling facilities that go beyond those set in the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention – which is yet to enter into force. This means that beaching sites will not be approved for EU listing and that downstream management of shipborne wastes needs to meet equivalent standards as those set by EU waste laws.

1st issue: re-flagging

While the Regulation may direct the very limited number of ships registered under an EU flag to “green” listed ship recycling facilities the Regulation does nothing to prevent ship owners from registering to a non-EU flag prior to selling their ships for breaking. Already many ships controlled by owners based in the EU sail under non-EU flags such as Panama and Liberia during their operational lifetime: by changing flag at end-of-life ship owners can further easily avoid falling under the scope of the new EU law. In fact, the Regulation may even have the unintended effect of shrinking the number of ships registered under an EU flag, and therefore making the Regulation counterproductive to other EU initiatives aimed at building a more robust EU fleet.

2nd issue: lack of financial incentive

Recent studies have proposed an array of possible mechanisms to implement the polluter pays principle for end-of-life ships and have clearly shown that a financial incentive for proper ship recycling is legally feasible, enforceable, and necessary. Yet, such a mechanism was not included in the new Regulation. Instead the European Commission is asked to consider possible mechanisms and make a legislative proposal to include a financial incentive if deemed appropriate.

3rd issue: illegality

The ship recycling Regulation exempts EU flagged ships from the European Waste Shipment Regulation, which aims at protecting developing countries from the dumping of hazardous wastes and incorporates the United Nations Basel Convention and its Basel Ban Amendment. There are clear and compelling legal opinions proving that this unilateral exemption of ships is a breach of the European Union’s legal obligations to uphold the Basel Convention and its Basel Ban Amendment. Independent environmental law experts and the European Council Legal Services have warned of the illegality of the new Regulation.

Former Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas announced in April 2006 that the European Union has an important role to play in finding solutions for responsible ship recycling. Following this, the European Commission published a Green Paper and a Strategy on the issue – both followed by extensive consultation rounds where Members States, industry and NGOs, including the Platform, have submitted their comments. Especially the Platform and the European Parliament strongly urged the Commission to act.

On 23 March 2012, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on ship recycling (COM(2012)118). The proposal was submitted for approval by the European Council and the European Parliament. After intense negotiations a compromise was reached in June 2013. Carl Schlyter, Green MEP, was the rapporteur to the Environment Committee of the European Parliament (ENVI) on this file and Ireland held the Presidency of the European Council. The Platform played an important and active role during the entire policy making process and successfully managed to find support for many of its demands.

For more information about our EU campaign see:
European campaign page
Report “What a difference a flag makes : Why ship owners’ responsibility to ensure sustainable ship recycling needs to go beyond flag state jurisdiction” April 2015
Common press release with the EEB from 27 June 2013 in which we denounce the weaknesses of the future EU regulation on ship recycling
Platform and Greenpeace EU joint position paper on EC proposal for a ship recycling regulation (Updated version of 21 January 2013)

For more information about the European institutions’ work on ship recycling, see:
Greens/EFA press release on the approval of the new EU ship recycling regulation by the Council of the EU
Opinion on the EC proposal for a ship recycling regulation by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
European Commission proposal for a ship recycling regulation COM(2012)118
European Commission website on ship dismantling
Platform proposals for a better ship dismantling policy at the European level
European Parliament Resolutions

What the Platform is doing

The Platform’s objective is that the EU adopts strong legislation delivering promise of concrete action to change the current shipbreaking practices and reverse the trend where end-of-life vessels are the largest stream of hazardous materials exported from Europe to developing countries.

This includes incentives for a shift from breaking end-of-life vessels on tidal beaches to dismantling operations where containment of hazardous materials and safe working conditions can be ensured; proper implementation of polluter pays and producer responsibility principles; a policy that does not undermine existing precautionary restrictions on transboundary movements of hazardous waste; and a commitment to action that will safeguard the effective implementation of international workers rights and waste laws.

Based in Brussels, the Platform participates to numerous workshops and stakeholders consultations on the shipbreaking issue at the European level and seeks support for its demands from the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament and EU Member States. The Platform also aims to bring together progressive stakeholders, including ship owners, and to raise public awareness of the human rights abuses and pollution caused by substandard shipbreaking. To that end, the Platform has hosted several events at the European Parliament, and every year the Platform publishes a list of European companies that have sold toxic ships to the beaches of South Asia.


Member States

Many ships owned by European companies end up on the breaking beaches of South Asia. Litigations and verdicts, initiated by Platform member organisations or on the basis of Platform alerts, have however obliged several ship owners to dismantle their ships in line with the European Waste Shipment Regulation.

In 2006, France had to repatriate the ex-aircraft carrier Clémenceau from India.

In 2007 the UK adopted a national policy on ship dismantling. France adopted a strategy on ship dismantling that same year.

For more information see:
Clémenceau’s story
2014 list of European ships sent to South Asia
2013 list of European ships sent to South Asia
2012 list of European ships sent to South Asia
2011 list of European ships sent to South Asia
2010 list of European ships sent to South Asia
UK Ship Recycling Strategy
French report of the Inter-ministerial mission on ship dismantling

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