Friday, October 25, 2013

EU Attempt to Ensure a Safe and Clean End to Freight Vessels as Ship Breaking Dangers Highlighted

Honourable Effort to Legislate Far Outside European Territories Will Be Difficult to Enforce When Profit is the Motive
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – EUROPE – Globally, around one thousand large end-of-life ships are broken up and recycled every year, particularly during times of overcapacity, as we have seen of late in the bulk (and to a lesser extent in general cargo and container shipping) markets, with numerous freight carrying vessels proving of more worth as scrap rather than lying idle. Most ship breaking takes place in South Asia, often on tidal beaches and under dangerous conditions as we have highlighted in some detail previously. Whilst the industry provides thousands of jobs for migrant workers, a lack of environmental protection and safety measures leads to high accident rates, health risks and extensive pollution of coastal areas. In an effort to reduce these negative impacts on EU-registered shipping, the European Parliament has backed plans to end the scrapping of old ships flagged in an EU member country, on third-country beaches and ensure they are recycled in EU-approved facilities worldwide instead.

Non-EU ships will also be covered by the regulation insofar as they will have to carry an inventory of hazardous materials when calling at EU ports. Enforcement measures, including penalties, are to be set by member states. In future, EU-registered ships will have to be dismantled in EU-approved ship recycling facilities which must fulfil specific requirements, be certified and be regularly inspected. Carl Schlyter (Greens/EFA, Sweden), who steered the legislation through Parliament, said:

"I want to stress that this is not an attack against India, Bangladesh or Pakistan - the countries that currently practice beaching - but against the dangerous and highly polluting practice of beaching itself. This regulation incentivises these countries to make the necessary investments in proper ship recycling facilities - above all for the sake of safe and environmentally-sound jobs in their countries."

During the negotiations, Parliament strengthened the proposed requirements by obliging ship-recycling businesses to operate in built structures, which must be ‘designed, constructed and be operated in a safe and environmentally sound manner’. They must hold in hazardous materials throughout the recycling process and handle them and their waste only on impermeable floors with effective drainage. Waste quantities will have to be documented, and their treatment authorised only in waste treatment or recycling facilities.

The Commission agreed it will have to report on the feasibility of a financial instrument to facilitate safe and sound ship recycling and, if appropriate, present a legislative proposal within 3 years of the entry into force of the regulation. The regulation will apply to ships at the earliest 2 years and at the latest 5 years after its entry into force, the eventual date depending upon when the recycling capacity of facilities on the EU list exceeds a threshold of 2.5 million light displacement tonnes with the regulation applicable from one year after it enters into force.

Unfortunately the ship breaking business is carried out in the most cost effective way possible and it is doubtful that the EU will be able to control an industry which needs legislating possibly more than just about any other. It will require the glare of publicity to ensure that responsible ship owners do not sell off excess tonnage to the highest bidder with no guarantee that this will not lead to a quick re-flagging to some third world register before hitting the beach at Alang or elsewhere in the now time honoured, and unsafe, insanitary and downright dangerous, tradition.

Photo: Scene from one of the videos highlighted in a previous story as a ship hits the beach in Gadani, Pakistan.