Europolitics – Parliament abandons proposal for recycling fund

(Written by Anne Eckstein)

18 April 2013 - By voting in favour of improving conditions for scrapping old ships, in plenary on 18 April, the European Parliament has taken a step forward in making the sector cleaner and safer. However, by refusing to endorse a proposal by the Committee on the Environment (ENVI) to create a recycling fund financed by a levy on shipowners, the plenary assembly, led by the EPP, has only covered half the ground, and – with the adoption of another amendment calling for a proposal for a financial incentive for 2015 – thrown this particular hot potato back to the European Commission.

The draft regulation(1) aims to reduce the adverse effects of careless scrapping of ships outside Europe – most often in South-East Asia – in ecologically unsafe and unsanitary conditions. It obliges shipowners to send ships destined to be dismantled to recycling facilities that meet specific ecological criteria, as agreed by the EU.

The ENVI committee’s report, written by Carl Schlyter (Greens-EFA, Sweden), proposes financing such a regime through a recycling levy that would be imposed on all ships (both European and non-European) using EU ports, in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle. This proposal was rejected with a slim majority during a plenary vote on 18 April (299 votes in favour, 292 against and 21 abstentions). Instead, MEPs adopted an amendment calling on the European Commission to present, before the end of 2015, a legislative proposal for an incentive-based system that would facilitate safe and sound ship recycling.

“It is very frustrating that a narrow majority succumbed to highly misleading lobbying by the maritime sector, seeking to shirk its responsibilities, and voted down the proposed financial mechanism that would have made safe ship recycling competitive,” said Schlyter after the vote.

Otherwise, MEPs have supported the rapporteur. The regulation provides that every EU ship should carry an inventory of the dangerous materials on board, an obligation that will also apply to every third-country ship entering a Community port or anchored in EU waters. In case of non-respect of this requirement, sanctions could be imposed. Penalties would also be imposed on owners of EU ships that are sold and sent, within twelve months of the sale, for recycling on a beach or in a facility not on the EU list. EU recycling facilities should, like those in third countries, be approved by the Commission, MEPs clarified.

The assembly gave Schlyter a mandate to negotiate a first-reading agreement with the Council. Discussions should begin in May.

(1) COM(2012)118