The Maritime Executive – IMO Launches Milestone Ship Recycling Project

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9 April 2015 – The IMO and Government of the People’s Republic in Bangladesh have launched the “Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling in Bangladesh – Phase I” project, marking a key milestone on the road to improving safety and environmental standards within the industry.

Ship dismantling on beaching yards has been strongly associated with environmental pollution, unsafe working conditions, and it has been particularly controversial in Bangladesh due to the use of child labor. In 2010 the industry was shut down for almost a year largely over the use of underage workers.

The “Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling in Bangladesh – Phase I” project aims at improving standards and stability within the country’s ship recycling industry and consists of five different work packages, including studies on economic and environmental impacts, the management of hazardous materials and wastes, recommendations on strengthening the Government’s One-Stop Service, a review and upgrade of existing training courses, and the development of a detailed project document for a possible follow-up project to implement the recommendations of phase I.

The project is being overseen by the Marine Environment Division of IMO in partnership with the Ministry of Industries of Bangladesh and includes collaborative work with the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Industry divided

Earlier this month, the Clean Shipping Network (CSN), a network of 32 multinationals, issued a statement condemning the breaking of ships on tidal beaches. In the statement, shipping companies mentioned the NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s list of shipping companies involved in the practice and asked them to review their policies and practices regarding the selling and recycling of end-of-life vessels. The shipping companies were also asked to report on their ship recycling policy in the Clean Shipping Index questionnaire, a tool used by leading international cargo owners to evaluate the environmental performance of their providers of sea transports.

Some believe the issue is not as clear cut as it would seem, as some yards are instigating positive changes in their practices. Ship recycling yards in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh need to be part of the global scheme of sound ship recycling and those yards in Alang which have invested in fully upgrading their facilities to meet the terms of internationally-agreed rules should be rewarded by winning more business, said Akihiro Tamura, Director of Shipbuilding Policy at the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro), shortly after returning from a fact finding trip to Indian recycling yards in Alang earlier this year. The four-day visit was arranged in association with cash buyer Global Marketing Systems (GMS).

Welcoming the comments from the visit, Nikos Mikelis, Non-executive Director of GMS, said it was up to the shipping industry and the regulators to see the improvement in conditions themselves. “We have already invited legislators from the European Commission, maritime administrations, IMO, as well as global shipowner representatives to visit the area and the invitation is still open.

“Separately, the IMO should be invited to hold a workshop/seminar in India to not only raise awareness of the improvements which have been made there but to inform and educate other yards as to what is needed to conform to the terms of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships,” he said.