IHS Fairplay – Debate rages over HK Convention

(Written by Girija Shettar)

10 November 2011 – Supporters of the environmentally sound ship recycling convention have been frustrated, reports Girija Shetta.

Parties to the Basel Convention who met in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia at the end of October have failed to reach a consensus on whether or not the IMO’s Hong Kong Convention offers an equivalent level of control and enforcement to the Basel Convention in relation to ship recycling.

Debates raged after the conference between supporters of the two conventions, who differently interpreted the final decision to ratify the Hong Kong Convention and continue the use of the Basel Convention.

NGOs Basel Action Network and Shipbreaking Platform, there as conference observers, seek continuance of Basel and read the decision as supportive of that, while the IMO sees it as a green light to Hong Kong. They also disagree on whether the two conventions should be applied simultaneously. “They have completely different objectives and have to co-exist,” Ingvild Jenssen, campaigner for Shipbreaking Platform, told Fairplay.

A big concern is that Hong Kong limits itself to the authorisation of recycling operations and does not refer to exports and imports, whereas Basel, as its full name states, is specifically for the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

Speaking to Fairplay, the IMO’s head of marine pollution prevention and ship recycling, Nikos Mikelis, explained why he does not favour simultaneous implementation. “Under Basel, if a Liberian-flagged ship [for example] in a European port wanted to go to China for recycling, Europe would be obliged to detain that ship because, under Basel, it is not allowed to export waste.

“However, if the flag and recycling states are parties to Hong Kong, the ship is within the rules to be sent for recycling. Implementing both would be a bureaucratic nightmare.”

Although Jenssen claimed that if the vessel contained hazardous materials Basel would apply, Mikelis said this issue struck to the heart of what’s wrong with Basel: “It can’t define ‘the exporting state’. Is it the port or the flag state? This is why Basel has not been enforceable on ships,” he said.

Jenssen conceded the point. “Understanding ‘exporting state’ [for ships] under Basel is a loophole that needs to be closed.”

Frustrations over these conventions are huge and resolution seems to demand a detailed study of the similarities and differences between the two and how to allocate them dedicated areas of enforcement.

For example, Hong Kong says pre-cleaning of end-of-life vessels is too hazardous – stripped ships are unseaworthy and need to be towed to recycling facilities. But Patrick Morton, MD of Lucion Environmental, a UK provider of inventories of hazardous materials (IHMs), told Fairplay that a level of pre-cleaning can be carried out that leaves vessels sufficiently intact.

As for beaching, which Hong Kong does not ban, Mikelis pointed out the economic impracticality of a ban: twothirds of the world’s recycling capacity uses beaching. Instead, Hong Kong works on preventive measures and years of patient work with yards have shown improvements. “In Bangladesh I’ve met several young yard owners who are keen to implement international standards at their yards,” he said.

(Read the original article)