Tradewinds – Indian breakers aim to stay ahead of Brussels dictates

(Written by Geoff Garfield)

7 March 2014 - Yard association official Nitin Kanakiya says recyclers are mulling various ‘options’ to enable them to meet the new European Ship Recycling Regulation

Indian shipbreakers’ leader, Nitin Kanakiya, claims that the world’s top vessel-recycling complex at Alang can meet strict requirements enabling the continued scrapping of European-flag ships on the subcontinent.

A potential ban by the European Commission (EC) on beaching ships for demolition stems from a new Brussels regulation that refers to the use of a “built structure” when dismantling vessels and a non-permeable floor to prevent the leakage of hazardous substances.

Beaching accounts for 70% to 75% of all ship scrapping and a European ban would come as a blow to the Indian subcontinent, although owners could still side-step such a clampdown by reflagging end-of-life tonnage.

Kanakiya, who is honorary secretary of the Ship Recycling Industries Association (India), brushes aside talk of a doomsday scenario by insisting that Indian recycling yards, of which there are currently 140 operating, are considering “options” to meet the European Ship Recycling Regulation (SRR).

Speaking on the sidelines of TradeWinds’ Ship Recycling Forum in Singapore, attended by a delegation of around 46 Indian cash buyers, Kanakiya said that while there are no plans for concrete slipways, there are instead proposals to construct an area where oil tanks and other sections can be taken and cut without leakage.

A further option is installing rubber sheeting below the sand.

Kanakiya says “built structures” sound impractical but the options being considered by the recyclers would achieve the same objectives sought by Brussels, namely to stop leakages into the soil in the intertidal zone.

He concedes that the problem at Alang is the fact that individual plots are often small, some 60 with only a seafront of less than 50 metres.

“But we are open to change and we will employ whatever is best and economically feasible,” said Kanakiya.

He says India has already adopted most provisions set out by the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC).

“If we come up with a feasible economic option then I believe nobody is going to stop us,” said Kanakiya. “We will address the requirements, not the terminology.”

He says Indian shipbreakers have never demanded aid to develop facilities and do not want to because of the terms that would be attached. The recyclers are prepared to invest themselves, he claims.

Quizzed on how many Alang breakers will be capable of meeting the European regulation for inclusion on its approved list of yards to scrap EU-flag tonnage, Kanakiya says currently just four yards are being promoted.

He argues that most Indian yards should be capable of eventually meeting the regulations. There are ways and means of bridging the “gap” with what Europe requires, he adds.

Kanakiya says a bigger threat is that the SRR fails and that is the reason India is pushing its case.

“That is why we are here [in Singapore] with a huge delegation of 46,” he said.

“We want to create history with the help of the TradeWinds [forum]. If we can do something constructive here, then fine.”

Among those speaking at the recycling forum this week was Emilien Gasc, policy officer at the EC’s Directorate-General for the Environment.

He says it is the intention to publish the list of approved recycling yards in the second half of 2015, “which gives us time to come up with the guidance” and for facilities to assess whether they have a chance of being included.

“We have every intention of making the regulation work and if there is a strong indication it will not, we will have time to reflect,” said Gasc.

The SRR does not mention beaching, only technical requirements that have to be achieved. “The door to adapting is open,” he told TradeWinds.