How to Ensure Sustainable Ship Recycling Globally

ship recycling
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Published Aug 25, 2017 7:27 PM by Karoliina Rasi

As required under the European Regulation on ship recycling, the European Commission recently published a report on the feasibility of a financial instrument that would facilitate safe and sound ship recycling. Questions were raised on a number of issues, including the compatibility of such a financial instrument with E.U. and international law, and the conclusion was that further analysis is needed. 

This is how international shipowners see the situation as well. The E.U. may not have competence to administer an E.U. ship recycling scheme. Rather than adding another administrative burden to all concerned parties, support should be given to the positive development of recycling yards around the world becoming compatible with the Hong Kong Convention. 

We have to make sure that ship recycling happens in safe and environmentally sound way. The most effective and speedy way to deliver that objective at the global level is through early and wide ratification and implementation of the Hong Kong Convention. 

The Convention, adopted in 2009 but not yet entered into force, provides a meaningful system of workable and enforceable regulations with the ultimate goal of lifting the level of sustainability of recycling facilities on a global scale to the benefit of all parties involved. It places clear and pertinent obligations on all parties concerned – shipowners, recycling facilities, flag states as well as recycling states – to ensure that end-of-life ships do not pose any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and the environment when being recycled. 

The European Union adopted the E.U. Ship Recycling Regulation in 2013. It brings forward the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention and applies them to end of life ships flagged with E.U. Member States. According to the Regulation, owners of ships flying the flag of E.U. Member States will have to ensure that their ships are recycled in facilities included on the E.U. list of approved ship recycling facilities. 

The European Commission published its first edition of the E.U. list in 2016. It includes 18 European recycling yards that are deemed safe for workers and environmentally sound. Currently these yards featured in the list unfortunately reach only about 12 percent of the E.U.’s own recycling capacity target. The next edition of the list including global shipyards should be published by the end of 2017, at the earliest triggering the application of the Regulation six months later. The European requirements are therefore likely to come into effect before the Hong Kong Convention.

The E.U. Ship Recycling Regulation offers a positive opportunity to build up an effective international regime both in terms of safety, health and environmental impacts. In this view, the E.U. list of approved recycling facilities plays a strategic role in motivating recycling yards all over the world to become compliant with the international requirements as they want to be included in the list.  As a consequence this will help swift entering into force of the Hong Kong Convention.

Ship recycling is an important industry for sustainable production and supports the developing economies of several countries. As ship breaking in most developed countries became economically non-viable in the 1950s, low-cost Asian countries began to dominate the industry. In recent years, over 90 percent of ships have been demolished in the global ship breaking centers of India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan. 

Ship recycling – complete or partial dismantling of a ship enabling the re-use of valuable materials. The materials of the ships, especially steel, are recycled and made into new products. Any re-usable equipment, electrical devices and other items on board are also recycled. Even many hazardous wastes can be recycled into new products such as lead-acid batteries and electronic circuit boards. In this way, ship recycling is a notable part of the circular economy, keeping resources at use for as long as possible and minimizing waste.  

Karoliina Rasi is Director – Public Affairs & Communications for the European Community Shipowners' Associations.  

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.