The Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention (SoCs) are issued on a business-to-business basis. Yard owners have contracted classification societies – acting as private consultants and not as recognized organisations on behalf of States – to assess the prospect of compliance with the Hong Kong Convention requirements.
The first company to issue a SoC to a beaching yard was the Japanese classification society ClassNK. The first beaching yards that received SoCs were Priya Blue, Kalthia, Leela and Shree Ram, which are all located on the Indian beach of Alang-Sosiya and are respectively linked to the main cash buyers Best Oasis, Wirana, GMS and NKD. From four yards in Alang-Sosiya receiving a SoC with the Hong Kong Convention in 2015, there are now reportedly 72 yards that have one. These Socs have been handed out by ClassNK, Italian classification society RINA and the Indian Register of Shipping. The industry push to make Indian beaching seem “green” has been promoted through the proliferated hand-outs of these certificates. As the Hong Kong Convention has not entered into force yet, it is important to note that none of the classification societies have been mandated to act as a recognised organisation by the Indian State. Italian RINA has been the first and, so far, the only classification society to certify a yard on the Bangladeshi beach of Chittagong.
The current 73 SoCs issued to beaching yards have been given on the basis of check-listing whether the yards can fulfil the requirements under the Hong Kong Convention as interpreted by the classification societies, without looking at the actual practice of the yards. To illustrate how void these certificates are: the Hong Kong Convention, and Indian law, requires that environmental monitoring is carried out at the yard. This requirement thus needs to be fulfilled for receiving a SoC. Many yards in Alang-Sosiya use the same company to conduct environmental monitoring. A closer look at the findings of this company reveals that the monitoring is of poor quality - indeed, many of the pollutants that are well known to exist in high concentrations on the beach in Alang-Sosiya are not even detected! Despite the wrong and misleading results provided, the box for environmental monitoring has been ticked by ClassNK, RINA and IRS so that the yards can receive their SoCs. The box has thus been ticked without an evaluation of whether the monitoring is actually telling of the environmental conditions – or worse, the poor quality of the environmental monitoring has been deliberately ignored.
Clearly, SoCs do not provide a guarantee that conditions at the yard are safe and environmentally sound. Not only are there problems with shipbreaking in the intertidal zone ignored, but it is understood some yards have SoCs without impermeable flooring also in the secondary cutting zone. Finally, SoCs are issued to yards where hazardous materials cannot be safely managed downstream – but are instead left to accumulate in small storage facilities onsite.