Tradewinds – EU outlines beaching ban

(Written by Adam Corbett)

10 October 2014 - Anger grows that Brussels fails to take into account the safety and environmental improvements made by many Asian yards and that a move will isolate two-thirds of the world’s shipbreaking capacity

The European Union (EU)’s first technical interpretation draft of its recycling regulation strongly suggests it will not permit ships registered in the region to be scrapped on beaches

Environmentalists have applauded the move but shipbreaking industry representatives say it is a setback that fails to recognise safety and environmental advances made in major shipbreaking countries.

The EU’s initial proposal, which amounts to a technical interpretation of already existing regulation, has been outlined in the form of a “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) document sent to stakeholders, who have until the end of this month to respond.

The biggest question was whether the EU would go ahead with a beaching ban hinted at in the text of the regulation.

The paper says breaking must be done from an impermeable floor and many thought that could mean beaching is not permitted.

In the technical interpretation, the EU says a ship’s hull may be used as an impermeable base to break up the upper structures of the hull and accommodation unit.

However, it insists on certain conditions and says the remaining ship’s bottom must be eventually transferred to another impermeable floor for final demolition.

In effect, it is pointing towards the Chinese method of dismantling a ship by the quayside, with the final sections broken up in a dry dock. That is the same approach being used to dismantle the 3,780-berth Costa Concordia (built 2006) in Genoa, Italy.

There are other hints that the EU will not allow beaching, with it specifying dismantled blocks must not come into contact with sand. It also says an ambulance must be able to come alongside the ship — something that can happen at a quay or dock side but not on a beach.

A spokesperson for environmentalist lobby group NGO Shipbreaking Platform says she is happy with the technical outcome as it would mean an end to beaching for EU-flag ships — but her only disappointment is that it applies only to EU vessels.

However, shipbreaking consultant Nikos Mikelis says he feared it would lead to the isolation of Asian shipyards.

“It will isolate two-thirds of shipbreaking capacity,” he said.

“It could mean the end of the Hong Kong Convention [for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships],” he added, explaining that support from shipbreaking nations is required to bring the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s convention into force.

Mikelis says he is angry that the EU has apparently failed to recognise the safety and environmental improvements made by many Indian yards.

He says it could also prove counterproductive, with ships flagging out of the EU so they could be demolished in Southeast Asia. He insists there is still time for shipping and shipbreaking industry representatives to influence the EU’s technical interpretation by their response to the FAQ document.

Shipbreakers can apply to be included on the EU-approved list of yards based on the technical interpretation from March next year.