Tradewinds – EU set to backtrack on recycling legislation

(Written by Adam Corbett)

12 December 2012 - A new draft proposal on recycling suggests the European Parliament may adopt a policy that counters international agreements.

Fears are growing that the European Union (EU) is about to dramatically change its tune on international agreements on recycling after its parliament came up with a draft recommendation that contradicts key areas of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (Hong Kong Convention).

While the European Council recently came out with a proposal for European legislation in full support of the International Maritime Organisaton (IMO)’s Hong Kong Convention in March, a new draft proposal by the more politicised European Parliament (EP) shows significant diversions.

The rapporteur of the EP report is Swedish Green Party member Carl Schlyter and it is being suggested that his political leaning may well be behind the re-adoption of many arguments from the green lobby, which were previously thrown out by the IMO and European Council as impractical. Others say he is a more pragmatic man than his political allegiances suggest.

Two significant areas in the EP proposal are infuriating supporters of the Hong Kong Convention.

Ship levy plan

The parliament wants to see the introduction of a levy charged on all ships of any flag calling on EU ports. The funds raised from this levy would be used for auditing ship-recycling sites and drawing up a list of demolition sites compliant with the EU regulation on ship recycling.

Despite the funds being raised from the international shipping industry, they would only be used for the benefit of European shipping.

However, a key architect of the Hong Kong Convention, the IMO’s Nikos Mikelis, does not believe the levy move would have any international impact or hurt the convention, suggesting it is “purely a European matter”.

The second move is to ban the use of beaching as a method of recycling, something the IMO convention had previously agreed would make the ship-scrapping business unviable.

Schlyter is calling for “the explicit prohibition of beaching of end of life ships” to be the basis of the EP legislation.

Supporters of the Hong Kong Convention argue that many of the points raised by the EP report have already been argued through at the international level and their removal from the Hong Kong Convention had already been supported by EU member states.

Japan’s Jun Kohno, a director at the Japan External Trade Organisation, told TradeWinds: “These two issues have already been extensively discussed at the IMO and all members decided not to take them forward. So we are disappointed and concerned about this latest development.”

John Stawpert, senior advisor (Environment & Trade) at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said: “The global implementation of the Hong Kong Convention is the only way to overcome the problems of the recycling industry.”

The IMO’s Mikelis says that the beaching ban would be potentially damaging as, by ignoring such sites, Europe, he believes, would no longer be able to affect safety and environmental standards. “To look away from two-thirds of the world’s capacity in Asia would mean that Europe is no longer able to influence them,” he suggested.

The EP draft proposal will go for a vote in front of the parliament some time in June next year. If it is approved, it is likely that there will have to be a compromise deal reached with the earlier European Council proposals.

But if European legislation is adopted that contradicts the Hong Kong Convention, that could seriously set back attempts to arrive at an effective global agreement on ship recycling, “It would leave both agreements in limbo,” one source suggested.