(Written by Katrine Groenvald Raun)
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.”