Tradewinds – Green lobby says Europe cannot endorse beaching

(Written by Geoff Garfield)

14 March 2014 - Environmenal campaigner Jim Puckett was scathing in his condemnation during TradeWinds’ ship-recycling forum in Singapore of conditions he alleges still persist at South Asian ship-recycling yards. What will drive shipbreakers to be truly green? He asked.

“Regulation?I don’t think so. We have been down that path,” said Puckett, who describes the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC) as an utter failure and not a vehicle for change. He says he will be dead before it comes into force.

Dramatic change is coming but it is likely to be market driven with consumers and company shareholders “voting with their pocketbooks”, Puckett says.

Patrizia Heidegger of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform told TradeWinds that the European Union had added to the legal confusion surrounding how end-of-life ships should be handled when they go for scrapping, with a need now to combine provisions in both the Basel Convention and the HKC.

She does not appear to rule out the possibility that countries like India might be able to meet requirements of the European regulation, “but as long as you have the primary cutting of the vessel in the intertidal zone on the beach it is not possible to control leakage”..

‘Scandal in Europe’

The campaign-group executive director is convinced that the European Commission (EC) will not list any beaching facilities “because it would create a scandal in Europe”.

Said Heidegger: “The commission cannot allow for the recycling of European-flag ships in facilities that do not meet European standards. The regulation clearly says that for the requirement to be fulfilled the facilities have to be broadly equivalent with European standards and anything that happens on a beach is not broadly equivalent to European standards.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas Dean, general manager of cash buyer Dubai Trading Agency (DTA), clashed with Swire Group over whether or not corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a “pipedream” for shipping.

For most companies in the current market it is “unaffordable”, almost “laughable”, he says. If an owner, for example, does not go for top dollar when selling superannuated ships, then questions are raised by their banks, while public companies face the wrath of their shareholders.

But Simon Bennett, general manager, sustainable development, at Swire division China Navigation, accused Dean of having an imperfect knowledge of the subject. He said Swire follows a sustainability policy not because they are a bunch of boy scouts but because “it is good for business”.

He cited an example from two or three years ago when the company went for green recycling in China even though it was offered only $300 per ldt compared to $360 per ldt in South Asia.

“You can’t stand up and say CSR is not affordable,” insisted Bennett.