Seatrade Maritime News – Ship recycling debate over beaching rages on in regulatory vacuum

Written by Wendy Laursen

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30 September 2015 - ClassNK has issued statements of compliance to two ship recycling facilities in Alang, India, verifying that the facilities are in line with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009.

It is the first time statements of compliance have been issued to ship recycling facilities in South Asia, and for many in the industry it is the sign of change in what has been called the “dirty side” of shipping.

The yards are R. L. Kalthia Ship Breaking (RLK) and Priya Blue Industries. Although the convention has not yet entered into force, Kalthia and Priya Blue have both carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid toward safer and greener ship recycling as well as developed the Ship Recycling Facility Plans required certification.

We are very pleased that RLK, a Wirana group company, is among the first two companies in the entire Indian sub-continent who have received the statement of compliance from ClassNK, says Rakesh Khetan (Billu), CEO, of cash buyer Wirana Shipping Corporation.

“RLK has become the facility of choice for many owners around the world by providing environmentally friendly “green” recycling facilities in line with their corporate social responsibility credentials. The yard has been upgraded technically and organisationally to fulfil HKC requirements,” said Billu.

“The project took a lot of hard work, research, perseverance, not forgetting the substantial time and funds put in as well. However, the successful outcome would not have been possible without the support of several individuals and organizations. We are thankful to all of them, especially ClassNK, Mr Henning Gramann of GSR Services for providing expertise and technical support in the implementation. We would also like to express our gratitude to the Government of India and the Government of Japan too, who devoted their time and knowledge in the implementation of the project.”

An Important Distinction

Critics of ship breaking practices in India say that many yards operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to dismantle the vessels, breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos and fall victim to accidents. Many live in shacks close to the yards often without basic sanitary facilities or drinking water supply.

Cash buyer GMS has also welcomed the compliance news for the two yards.

GMS has long been a supporter of recycling yards in Alang and was instrumental in organizing a 14-strong Japanese industry and government delegation visit to India earlier in the year so that officials could see for themselves the improvements being made by some of the more forward-thinking ship recycling yards.

A separate visit, also organized by GMS, hosted a delegation from the Danish Shipping Association (DSA) to witness those improved yards. The visit helped the DSA make the important distinction between yards that use beaching and comply with the Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling and those that do not, says GMS.

Dr Anil Sharma founder and CEO of GMS said: “I am so pleased that both these yards have finally won Hong Kong Convention status. This really does prove beyond doubt that not all beaching is bad. GMS has argued that declaring blanket bans on beaching without viewing individual upgraded sites is short-sighted and these statements of compliance really do vindicate our position.

“This news will have a positive effect by encouraging other yards in Alang and the rest of the Asian sub-continent to follow suit and upgrade their facilities to achieve similar recognition.”

Corporate Support

However, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform continues to call for urgent action to stop dangerous working conditions. In September, four workers died following a gas cylinder explosion in a shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Four others were critically injured in the accident that occurred at the Shital Ship Breaking yard.

“The conditions in the shipbreaking yards are not line with international standards for environmentally sound management, occupational health and safety rules, and fundamental labor rights. If Indian shipbreakers want to be part of a global industry providing services to international shipping companies that are more and more conscious of environmental and social issues, they have to live up to these standards,” says Patrizia Heidegger, Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

The platform reports that U.S. shipping company Matson has now committed to recycling its old ships in responsible yards. In Europe, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its 160 members recently voted to prohibit Norwegian-owned ships from being scrapped on South Asian beaches. This move follows other large foreign shipowners that have also adopted “off-the-beach” ship recycling policies, including Norwegian ship owners Grieg, Wilhelmsen and Høegh, along with German Hapag-Lloyd, Danish Maersk Lines, Royal Dutch Boskalis, Canadian CSL Group and Singaporean China Navigation Company. The U.S. government has likewise maintained a long-standing policy that requires its own ships to be recycled domestically and off beaches.