The Indian Express – Japan pushes for ratification of Hong Kong Convention, ship recyclers agree

(Written by Gopal B Kateshiya)

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14 January 2015 - India is likely to get help from Japan to improve the facility at Alang-Sosiya ship recycling yard as the Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA) of India on Tuesday agreed to the Japanese condition of adhering to the norms of Hong Kong Convention (HKC), 2009, on the ship recycling industry. The decision was taken at a meeting with a high-level delegation from Japan in Alang, which was also attended by officers of Gujarat Maritime board and other departments of the state government. After around four-hour-long deliberations, SRIA agreed to the offer of help from Japan to help improve facilities at Alang-Sosiya yard, the largest ship breaking yard of the world in terms of number of ships being dismantled.

“Japan can help India if India is ready to ratify the Hong Kong Convention. We can help ship recycling industry of India if India cooperates with the global efforts to put into force the Hong Kong Convention,” said Mitsuhiko Ida, deputy director for maritime bureau in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan. Ida was leading the 14-member Japanese delegation comprising government officials, shipping industry representatives and industry experts. The group was on a two-day tour of Alang as part of the high-level talks between India and Japan initiated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan in September last year during which he had showed strong commitment to ship recycling industry.

SRIA secretary Nitin Kanakiya, who was leading the deliberations on behalf of recyclers, responded positively to the proposal. “We have no problem in conforming with the HKC. Majority of norms laid down in the HKC are covered in Ship Recycling Code, 2013 of India. But, in return, we expect technological help from Japan for decontamination of ships after they are beached,” Kanakiya said. Presently, decontamination is done manually and success rate, Kanakiya said, was around 95 per cent.

Talking to The Indian Express after the meeting, Ida said the two counties would work out modalities of helping the recycling industry in the coming months. “We can help Alang in areas of safety (of workers) and environment protection. India accounts for around 30 per cent of recycling industry in the world and is also an important player in international shipping industry. On the other hand, Japan is a leader in ship building and ship owning. China and Turkey do not have the capacity to recycle ships after a limit. Therefore, we want recycling to happen in India. But at the same time, we believe the recycling should be done as per HKC. Therefore, we want to help India in getting HKC ratified,” said Ida.

Keiji Tomoda, chairman of Ship Recycling Cub-Committee of the Japanese Ship Owners’ Association, said it wouldbe a great step if India ratifies HKC. “Japanese companies own 2,000 out of the total 3,000 major ships in the world. Most of the Japanese-owned ships go to China for recycling after their life. But we want to sell end-of-the-life ships to India because India offers better prices than China,” Tomoda said.

Tomoda further said that China has the capacity to recycle all of Japanese ships, but added that more Japanese ships had started beaching in Alang over the last two years due to better price. The European Union member countries do not send their ships to India or other recycling yards in Bangladesh and Pakistan due to what they call low safety standards for workers and environmental pollution. However, many ships change flags to find a way around stringent EU norms and thus find their way to ship breaking yards in South Asia.

Nikos Mikelis, an authority on ship recycling, who was part of the delegation as an expert, said the visit by the Japanese team came at a right time. “SRIA says Ship Recycling Code, 2013 meets the majority of norms laid down in the HKC. If this is so, it is very encouraging as HKC is very important for the survival of global recycling industry. And HKC cannot come into force without the support of India for the sheer reason that India accounts for around 30 per cent of the total recycling,” said Mikelis.

The SRIA secretary said while it was for the Government of India to take a final call on the ratification of HKC, but added that the association would convey its views on the matter to the government. The Japanese delegation had arrived in Alang on Monday and visited a few recycling plots. The group visited a few more plots on Tuesday and hazardous waste disposal facility before the meeting with all stake holders.