Ship recycling practices in Alang, India, are gradually improving. The European Commission should acknowledge this positive development under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. Adopting an overly restrictive approach will discourage first movers and further delay the entry into force of the IMO Hong Kong Convention.
These are the main messages that ECSA took home from a fact-finding visit held last week in Alang, India. The visit was organised in cooperation with the Indian government, the Gujarat Maritime Board and the Ship Recycling Industry Association (SRIA) of India. Next to European shipowners, the delegation visiting the yards included representatives from EU Member States, the European Commission (DG Environment) as well as the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
Like in most other South Asian ship recycling yards, recycling operations in Alang take place in intertidal zones. South Asian yards represent the greatest part of the world’s ship recycling capacity, not only in terms of volume but also in terms of size of ships enabled to be dismantled. The main purpose of the ECSA visit was to assess to what extent operations in intertidal zones can be sustainable and thus be potentially compliant with the provisions of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. This Regulation was adopted in 2013 in anticipation of the entry into force of the 2009 IMO Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, also known as the ‘Hong Kong Convention’. The Convention, and its accompanying guidelines, will establish a level playing field for sustainable ship recycling activities worldwide.
“We were able to visit a diverse number of yards in transparency and could take stock of progress made in terms of health, safety and environmental protection”, said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “It is obvious that the implementation of standards differs considerably, but an increasing number of yards have clearly taken the responsible path towards full compliance with the Hong Kong Convention, both in letter and spirit. We want to ensure that the other yards are following these first movers so that the bar can be raised overall. As the Hong Kong Convention has not entered into force yet, we have encouraged these yards to apply for recognition under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. In turn, we urge the Commission to assess these applications in the true spirit of the Regulation and the Convention.”
The EU Regulation incorporates the provisions of the Hong Kong Convention. It establishes an EU approved list of recycling facilities where EU-flagged vessels will have to be scrapped. Ship recycling yards worldwide can apply to be included on this list. The EU Regulation itself does not a priori preclude yards that operate in intertidal zones from obtaining EU recognition. But the European Commission issued on 12 April a set of far-reaching interpretative guidelines in the form of ‘frequently asked questions’, which will make it in practice extremely challenging for these yards to be recognised under the EU Regulation.
“The EU list can really play a strategic role in motivating recycling yards all over the world to be compliant with Hong Kong requirements, ahead of the entry into force of the Convention”, said ECSA Safety & Environment Director Benoît Loicq, “Last week’s visit has clearly brought new insights which show that the most progressive yards in Alang are continuously improving in terms of health, social welfare and safety conditions for workers and environmentally sound operations”.