The Fiji Times – Ship recycling legislation not a solution

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15 April 2015 - The legislation meant to regulate ship recycling practices, in particular the EU Ship Recycling Regulation and the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention, mainly based on flag state jurisdiction will neither be able to solve the problems of substandard shipbreaking nor enforce the polluter pays principle on ship owners, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform stressed.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform published a briefing paper titled What a difference a flag makes — Why ship owners’ responsibility to ensure sustainable ship recycling needs to go beyond flag state jurisdiction.

The analysis of the link between flags of convenience (FOCs), in particular “end-of-life flags” and substandard shipbreaking practices, shows that FOCs are likely to undermine the implementation of the polluter pays principle by making it easy for ship owners to circumvent legislation by flagging-out to a non-party or a non-compliant flag.

In conclusion, the briefing paper asserts that solutions urgently needed to ensure sustainable ship recycling must go beyond flag state jurisdiction in order to close the loopholes created by the FOC system.

According to the Shipbreaking Platform, most ship owners circumvent existing legislation meant to protect in particular developing countries from hazardous wastes present within the structure of end-of-life vessels, and are therefore not held accountable for polluting and dangerous shipbreaking practices.

Only a small number of ship-owning companies have taken voluntary measures to ensure the clean and safe recycling of their obsolete vessels.

For the sake of higher profits, most ship owners sell their end-of-life vessels with the help of a cash buyer to a shipbreaking yard that lacks proper infrastructure and safe working conditions. It is a choice of profits at the cost of people and the environment.

The EU has a particular responsibility to provide solutions to the shipbreaking problem as about 40 per cent of the world’s commercial fleet is owned by European companies and one third of the tonnage broken every year in substandard yards in South Asia was sold by European companies.