UPI – EU approves compromise on ‘shipbreaking’ in South Asian countries

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1 July 2013 - Owners of old  European Union-flagged ships will still be able to scrap them cheaply in Asian  countries after a compromise on recycling such vessels was struck.

However, in a legislative deal reached Thursday among the EU Council, the  European Parliament and European Commission, owners of the rusting ships can  only “shipbreak” and recycle them in foreign facilities that meet minimum  environmental requirements.

Environmental and human rights campaigners have been fighting for an end to  the practice, saying the informal ship scrapping operations in such South Asian  countries as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh cause significant environmental  pollution at a high cost to human health.

The use of child labor was also regularly documented.

But those nations objected, saying banning EU-flagged ships from using the  operations would deprive their economies of much-needed jobs and take $6.3  billion per year out of the pockets of ship owners, who use the funds generated  from recycling parts as down payments for new vessels, The Wall Street Journal  reported.

EU-flagged ships were already required to use only facilities within the  Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — which includes EU  member states, the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Turkey and other  non-Asian nations.

European ship owners routinely get around those requirements by re-flagging  vessels and beaching them in South Asian countries, where 70 percent of the  world’s shipbreaking is carried out — at prices significantly cheaper than can  be found in OECD states.

Old ships contain such hazardous materials as asbestos, heavy metals and  PCBs.

“Up to now, EU ships have generally been dismantled and recycled at  sub-standard sites operating to low standards in third countries,” Irish  Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan said in  a statement announcing the deal. “From the date of application of this  regulation, this practice will now have to cease in respect of EU-flagged ships.  Ships will instead have to be properly recycled in approved facilities operating  to high environmental and worker safety standards.”

Hogan, saying he was confident the new regulation “will be effective,” added  the new law is intended to serve as an “important stimulus” toward a global  solution to unsound ship recycling being sought under the Hong Kong Convention  on Ship Recycling adopted in 2009.

Also praising the deal was EU Environment Commissioner Janez  Potocnik, who said the legislation is “a major step toward more sustainable  recycling of ships around the world.”

Under the regulation, he said, “ship owners will be able to choose such  facilities from an EU list at a reasonable price. I am convinced it will reduce  the illegal practices currently blighting the industry, which will become more  responsible and environmentally friendly as a result.”

Activists, however, said the compromise represents a “unilateral loophole”  for European shippers in efforts to end the practice dumping hazardous materials  in developing nations.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and European Environmental Bureau denounced the  new regulation as “effectively postponing and possibly ridding the EU (of) its  responsibility to provide solutions to the global shipbreaking crisis.

“We fear that the regulation will end up applying to very few ships,” Jeremy  Wates, the EEB’s secretary general said in a statement. “Unless an economic  incentive for all ships calling at EU ports is rapidly introduced, circumvention  of the law will persist, and the European shipping industry will continue to be  at the heart of scandals involving severe pollution of coastal zones and  exploitation of vulnerable workers in developing countries.”

Read more:  http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2013/07/01/EU-approves-compromise-on-shipbreaking-in-South-Asian-countries/UPI-95261372651980/#ixzz2Xny7daqL