Recycling International – Slow progress towards more responsible shipbreaking

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29 May 2014 - Belgium: The NGO Shipbreaking Platform addressed the shortcomings of the EU’s ship dismantling policies – part of the ‘Blue Growth Strategy’ – at the EU Maritime Day which was hosted last week in Brussels. Current legislation ‘does not tackle the real threats to the world’s oceans and seas’, the group told delegates.

Together with leading environmental and labour rights organisations such as Greenpeace, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the International Transport Workers Federation, the NGO stressed the need for ‘a sustainable marine economy’. Besides ship owners using ‘flags of convenience’, the shipbreaking industry is still battling sub-standard scrapping, pollution and a disregard for ship yard workers’ labour rights, noted its executive director Patrizia Heidegger.

She called on the International Maritime Organization, the UNEP/Basel Secretariat and the International Labour Organization to work together on phasing out current beaching practices in South Asia and on helping to develop modern ship recycling facilities off the beach that ‘guarantee a clean and safe dismantling of all end-of-life vessels’. Green ship design must also become a reality so hazardous materials no longer end up in ships, Heidegger argued.

‘It is shameful that most ship owners continue to reject responsibility for their end-of-life vessels,’ she said. While best price is still at the top of the list of priorities for most of them, an increasing number of ‘progressive’ ship owners are refusing to sell their end-of-life ships to sub-standard beaching yards. The EU Ship Recycling Regulation has set ‘a clear standard’ for safer practices, Heidegger added. ‘So sooner or later, safe and clean ship recycling will be unavoidable for all.’