The debate on the beaching method of ship breaking could be settled by an application sent to the European Commission (EC) by a handful of Indian ship-recycling yards.
Five of the 167 ship-recycling yards located on the coast of Alang-Sosiya in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, home to the world’s largest stretch of ship breaking beaches, have applied to the EC to be included in its list of approved facilities where ships flying the flag of a European Union (EU) member state would be sent for dismantling at the end of life. The deadline for submitting applications closed on 30 June.
By December, the EC will draw up a list of ship-recycling facilities that have demonstrated compliance with the ship-recycling regulation published by the EU in 2013.
The application to the EC comes a few months after these five yards—R L Kalthia Ship Breaking Pvt. Ltd, Priya Blue Industries Pvt. Ltd, Leela Ship Recycling Pvt. Ltd, Shree Ram Group and Shubh Arya Steel Pvt. Ltd—won compliance certificates with a separate global regime that seeks to ensure that redundant ships are disposed of safely and in an environmentally sound manner.
This was the first time such recognition has been given to ship breakers in South Asia. It goes a long way in dispelling doubts about the beaching method of breaking ships practised along a 10-km stretch of Alang-Sosiya, often subject to criticism for its lax safety and health rules, says experts.
Under the beaching method, ships are first grounded and then dismantled, posing hazards to human beings and environment.
The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2009. It is, however, yet come into force because it has not been ratified by 15 states, representing 40% of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage (capacity) and a maximum annual ship-recycling volume not less than 3% of the combined tonnage of the states, to take effect globally.
While the IMO convention does not prohibit the dismantling of old ships by the beaching method, a separate ship-recycling regulation published by the European Union in 2013 seeks to ban the method of dismantling ships practised in Alang-Sosiya.
While the first four ship-recycling yards were certified for compliance with IMO’s Hong Kong Convention by Japanese ship classification society Class NK, Shubh Arya Steel was certified by the Italian classification society RINA.
In order to be included in the European list, compliance by a ship-recycling facility should be certified following a site inspection by an independent verifier.
The first four ship recyclers have applied to the EC with documents from IR Class Systems and Solutions Pvt. Ltd, an independent verifier, certifying that they are in compliance with the ship-recycling regulation of the EU.
Shubh Arya Steel’s application was supported by a compliance certificate from RINA.
With environmental safety gaining prominence in many aspects of trade and commerce, becoming a green ship-recycling yard has its benefits. It will help them buy old ships for scrapping at lower rates because of the limited number of facilities that are compliant with the IMO and EU rules.
The application of the five Indian ship-recyclers could also potentially create a dilemma for the EC.
The list of approved recyclers of the EC is likely to include yards in China, Turkey, North America and the EU, but not those in South Asia, though some of them in the region have upgraded facilities to comply with the IMO regulation.
Seventeen more yards in Alang-Sosiya have now been appraised and audited by Class Nk and RINA for certification of compliance with the Hong Kong Convention of the IMO.
Many believe that ship recycling choice shouldn’t be based just on geography and that the market must make a distinction between yards which use beaching and comply with the Hong Kong convention and those that do not.
“If the European Commission rejects our applications, it has to give a proper justification why they are doing so. If they are that stringent, their rules should not apply to yards in Turkey and China also,” an executive with one of the five ship recycling yards said on condition of anonymity.
In the run-up to the preparation of the list of approved ship-recycling facilities that have demonstrated compliance with EU rules, the EC is separately discussing a proposal to set up an EU ship-recycling fund, which, if accepted, will compel ships, regardless of flag, to pay for EU ship-recycling licences when calling at EU ports.
The money that visiting ships would have to pay into a proposed EU fund, including those flying the flag of non-EU nations, would only be returned at the end of the vessel’s working life, many years later, when it will probably have a different owner and flag, and only on condition that the ship is recycled at a yard approved by the EC, according to the proposal.
This will undermine efforts by the IMO to improve working and environmental conditions in developing nations, where most ship-recycling yards are located and the proposal must be rejected, according to The European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)—which represent over 80% of world shipping tonnage.
ECSA and ICS argue the EU should concentrate its efforts on getting EU member-states to ratify the IMO Hong Kong Convention, and to recognize the efforts being made by recycling yards in Asia to gain certification in accordance with IMO standards. They insist these yards should be given a fair chance to be included in the EU list of approved recycling facilities. The outcome of the applications submitted by the five Indian green recyclers could settle the debate.
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