ShippingWatch – Norwegian Shipowners: We need to follow the Hong Kong convention

(Written by Katrine Groenvald Raun)

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4 November 2013 -  When Norwegian shipowners have to scrap their ships, they ought to follow the  requirements of the Hongkong convention, says the Norwegian Shipowners’  Association. A new list published by the NGO’s Bellona and Shipbreaking Platform  show that 102 Norwegian owned ships have been scrapped on the beaches of  Southeast Asia since 2009, where one of the problems is that the ships are not  drained of dangerous waste, as otherwise stipulated by international  regulations.

“We recommend our members to follow the convention as shipowners. The convention  contains requirements for the scrapping facility, for controls and follow-ups on  the shipowner’s part as well as requirements relating to the owners of ships. We  can’t demand anything from our members, but we can make recommendations,” Hanna  Lee Behrens, Director of Environment, Safety, and Innovation at the Norwegian  Shipowners’ Association, tells ShippingWatch.

But are you pleased with Norwegian ships being scrapped in Southeast Asia?

“We can’t interfere with the commercial decisions of our members. And sending  a ship to be scrapped is a commercial decision. As such, we’ve done as much as  we can by stating clear recommendations saying that no matter where they have  their ships scrapped, they ought to comply with convention as owners. Prepare  the ship as stipulated. But the convention doesn’t say where you have to scrap  it.”

This does not mean that the association is not concerned about this problem.  On the contrary, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association has worked with scrapping  for many years, and have played an active part in developing the IMO’s Hong Kong  convention, which was adopted in 2009, says Hanna Lee Behrens. The association  has visited both India and Bangladesh and had a powerful reaction to the working  conditions and the absence of environmental considerations at the  facilities.

“The convention is not optimal, we agree with Bellona that it could be  better, but it’s a significant step in the right direction to lift all the main  facilities (the scrapping facilities) from the current state they’re in today,”  she says, adding:

“We believe it’s important that these countries get a reason to upgrade their  facilities, so as to comply with the convention. And the more companies that  hand over their ships in compliance with the convention and also go down there  to follow-up and control the process, the more focus we’ll get on the conditions  in relation to improving the standards.”

Hanna Lee Behrens says that it will be impossible to put a complete end to  scrapping on the beaches of Southeast Asia. She explains that the Norwegian  Shipowners’ Association has several members actively participating in  establishing and financing decent facilities in China, but there is still far  from enough capacity to accommodate the many ships that will be taken apart in  the coming years. The association does warn direct members against scrapping  ships in Bangladesh, as the conditions there are much worse than in Pakistan and  India:

“We do recognize that there are facilities in both Pakistan and India, and  other places as well, that don’t live up to an acceptable standard. But we have  to start somewhere,” she says.

The Hong Kong convention was accepted by all IMO countries in 2009, but the  path toward a final implementation is still long. Norway is the only country so  far that has ratified the convention, which they did this year. And that is far  from good enough, says Hanna Lee Behrens, as all the countries agree about the  wording and have approved of it.

“The most important things is to make this convention become effective,  because then all the yards will have to improve their standards. That’s why its  positive that the EU is now gearing up to get all the countries to ratify the  convention. We’re very focused on that,” says Hanna Lee Behrens.

“And it’s important that the IMO asks the countries to live up to their  responsibilities and secure this ratification. The first step was taken by  creating the convention, now we need to take the last step by ratifying it.”