Lloyd’s List – Breaking the silence

(Written by Tom Leander)

20 June 2012 - The European Commission’s proposal on shipbreaking gives a healthy recharge to the recycling debate

IT IS tempting to characterise the European Commission’s efforts to make the world safe for shipbreaking as altruistic overreach.

But it is not that simple. At issue is whether the European Union should go ahead and supplement the already workable guidelines set by the International Maritime Organization’s Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships with an added garnish of regulation.

Soledad Blanco, an official in the commission’s environmental directorate general, said at a conference on Tuesday that European shipowners that dispose of ships outside of EU standards would be penalised.

The commission is proposing to create a list of acceptable breaking yards and penalise those EU owners that send ships for recycling outside the list, even if they sell a ship to another owner and the ship is sent on to a non-EU approved yard within six months. One participant at the conference questioned whether owners will still find a way to circumvent EU regulations under this regime. Ms Blanco emphasised that this is a proposal and still in the works.

At the very least, the proposal shines a light on an issue that has lacked attention as demand for scrapping rises and owners struggle to make ends meet.

The actual ratification of the Hong Kong convention is probably years and years away. Until that day, rules by the EU, provided they are compatible with the goals of the Hong Kong convention, could have the beneficial effect of encouraging speedier ratification. They could also bring owners back into the debate.