(Written By Dave Keating)
22 March 2012 - Dismantling would only be allowed at safe facilities.
Shipowners will have to comply with tighter restrictions on how and where their vessels can be dismantled under new rules to be proposed by the European Commission tomorrow (23 March).
Campaigners argue, however, that the new rules would amount to a step backward, and would not prevent the export of ships for dismantling by hand in south Asia.
Currently, an estimated 80% of ships are run ashore on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. When done improperly, ship recycling harms workers and pollutes the environment.
Hong Kong Convention
The regulation would implement global standards agreed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2009 in the Hong Kong Convention. No country has yet ratified the convention, and there is no deadline for implementation, though the rules are expected to be in place within eight to ten years.
The Commission wants to oblige member states to ratify the convention now. For EU carriers, owners of 40% of the world’s ships, the rules would take effect in 2014.
Speaking at a ship recycling conference last week, a Commission official said that the regulation would require EU ships to be designed sustainably, require owners to keep an inventory of hazardous materials, and only allow dismantling at safe and environmentally sound facilities.
But a campaign group, the Shipbreaking Platform, said the approval of the proposal would be a step backward, because the proposal would remove ships from the waste-shipment regulation, which forbids the export of ships for dismantling. While the proposal would require ships to be recycled at safe facilities, it would allow them to be exported.
“We were expecting them [the Commission] to propose ways to reinforce implementation of the waste-shipment regulation,” said Ingvild Jenssen, the group’s director. “But they’ve simply not had the courage to stand up to the shipping industry. They’ve made a tailored legislation for them, instead of defending the principles and rules that exist.”
Jenssen is also disappointed that, according to the latest draft, the Commission is backing the convention’s language that says ships dismantled on a beach can be defined as safe and environmentally sound. She says she expects the Parliament and several member states to oppose any definition that would allow dismantling on beaches.
A spokesperson for the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) said shipowners are “quite pleased with the proposal, which will be in line with the Hong Kong Convention”. But they have concerns that it goes beyond the convention, by including a longer list of hazardous materials.
The Shipbreaking Platform is concerned that shipowners will continue to switch flags from EU states to non-EU states at the end of a ship’s life, a ploy often used to circumvent the waste-shipment regulation.
“We have to admit that [current legislation] is not adapted to the technical, legal and economic realities of shipping and ship recycling,” the Commission official said.
The draft says that if the new rules are found to be ineffective, the Commission can introduce a market mechanism that would hold shipowners responsible for dismantling from the beginning of the life of a ship.
This could take the form of port taxes or insurance premiums that would go toward a fund used to pay for ship recycling. The Shipbreaking Platform believes there is already enough evidence that this market mechanism is needed now. But the ECSA said it has concerns that such a fund would hurt the industry in Europe.