Tradewinds – Owners fear beaching ban could backfire on Europe

(Written by Adam Corbett)

28 February 2014 - Brussels told that outlawing scrapping on beaches could be counterproductive as it considers guidance on recently agreed recycling regulation

The European Commission (EC) has been urged by shipowners and cash buyers not to introduce an effective ban on beaching as it considers the technical interpretation of its new shiprecycling regulation (SRR).

But environmental lobbyists are confident the EC will outlaw beaching when it releases its guidance later this year.

Stakeholders were invited to put forward their views on how the regulation should be applied at a Brussels meeting this week having earlier answered a 10-point questionnaire posed by the EC.

Top of the list of questions was a call for views on the technical requirements for yards to be approved to recycle European Union (EU) member-state-flag ships.

The regulation currently requires ships to be dismantled from a “built structure” with a non-permeable floor, implying that beaching, which accounts for more than 70% of ship scrapping, would not be recognised.

The Asian Shipowners’ Forum (ASF) told the meeting that European rules should be guided by the unratified International Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (Hong Kong Convention).

That International Maritime Organisation (IMO)-agreed initiative encourages safe and environmentally friendly recycling without imposing a beaching ban.

The ASF said: “It is essential to ensure that interpretation of technical requirements of the EU regulation should be in line with the Hong Kong Convention and its relevant guidelines and should not prohibit particular recycling methods as long as such methods successfully ensure the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships.”

The International Chamber of Shipping’s John Stawpert, representing shipowner associations around the world, told TradeWinds that he believes it is important that the European regulation remained “as close as possible to the Hong Kong Convention in supporting its technical guidelines”.

He says shipowners did not want to see conflicting regulations that could result in the development of two different markets for recycling.

Cash buyer GMS representative Nikos Mikelis told the Brussels meeting that beaching can still be carried out in a way that meets strict safety and environmental requirements, as has been evidenced by progress made by some Asian yards.

He says a decision by the EU not to recognise beaching runs the risk that it would not be able to influence further progress in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“The EU, by banning beaching, would forego its influence to motivate the three South Asian countries towards safer and environmentally cleaner shiprecycling,” he said.

“In fact, it would reverse the trend of the last few years whereby individual shiprecyclers have been making investments and improvements in their yards in line with the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention.”

Mikelis points out that it might be dangerous for the EU to rely on Chinese and Turkish breaking facilities to dismantle the European fleet, with China seemingly only buying ships when its domestic scrap-steel requirement dictates.

A strong green lobby is seeking a tougher stance on recycling facilities in Asia from Europe.

Shipbreaking Platform executive director Patrizia Heidegger says the Hong Kong Convention actually allows for tougher regional regulations.

She believes the EC will be forced to make a ban explicit because of waste regulations already in force in the region.

“We do not think the commission will allow any beaching facility because it [the EC] cannot approve something that is already backed by European regulation. It would be better if the commission were to make the ban explicit and avoid any misunderstanding in the future,” she said.