The Indian Express – With eye on Japan, two ship-breaking yards in Gujarat tread ‘green’ path

Written by Avinash Nair

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11 October 2015 - Two ship-breaking yards from Alang in Gujarat have become the first ship recycling facilities in entire South Asia to be issued Statements of Compliance (SoC) by Japan’s leading classification society, ClassNK, for taking steps for safer and greener ship recycling.

These certification comes at a time when most shipbreaking yards at this recycling unit near Bhavnagar have been battling issues of pollution and contamination for last three decades.

The owners of these yards — RL Kalthia Ship Breaking Pvt Ltd and Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd — were issued the SoC about ten days ago after verifying that the facilities are in line with the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 (HKC). The owners of these yards now feel that they hold an edge over other shipbreakers in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in attracting ships from Japan which is home to some of the biggest shipping lines in the world like Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (K-Line), NYK Lines and others.

“Though this is a small step, this certification is definitely a piece of encouragement for shipbreakers at Alang who have been battling environment-related issues for so long. It has been issued by one of the best classification societies in Japan who are known to have very high standards and go a long way in dispelling doubts about the method of shipbreaking practised here. The Japanese have personally visited Alang a number of times to check these two yards before issuing the certification,” says Captain Sudhir Chadha, port officer from the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) who is one of the topmost state government representative at Alang.

Both the yards were found to have “Carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid towards safer and greener ship recycling.” ClassNK not only reviewed the plans prepared by both the yards, but also conducted on-site inspections before issuing the SoC.

“We have invested a lot of time and money to improve the infrastructure within our yard. During the last 18 months, we have built impermeable concrete flooring that prevents seepage of oil, built drainage lines that is connected directly to the treatment and storage disposal created by GMB, built chain pits, replaced oxygen cylinders with a large tank, we have ensured that there is absolutely no spillage of oil or chemicals on the beachfront where the ship is broken,” said Rakesh Gupta, director of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd which is one of the two yards that has spent over Rs 1.5 crore in upgrading its infrastructure and look visibly tidy and clean in comparison to the neighbouring yards.

Two more ship recyclers from Alang — Shree Ram Group of Industries and Leela Ship recycling Pvt Ltd — are currently in the process of being audited by Class NK for compliance certification, said officials from GMB who felt that yard owners were certifying their activities with an aim to attract more ships from Japan that own large fleets in excess of 2000 ships. “Though Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships is yet to be ratified by European Union, the ship-breakers in Gujarat definitely stand a chance to get priority from ship sellers in Japan,” Captain Chadha said.

Chetan Patel, owner of Shree Ram Group of Industries which has applied for similar certification says, “The ship owners in Japan and other places are under tremendous pressure from environmental organisations in their respective countries to stop dumping old ships in ship-recycling yards in Asia where people think environmental laws are flouted. We want to tell the ship owners in Japan and Europe that at Alang we follow environmental norms and old ships are broken in an organised manner. In short we feel that Class NK certificate holders from Alang will be given priority when they will go for buying ships.”