Judiciousness needed to promote sustainable recycling of ships worldwide

Patrick Verhoeven's pictureIn a position paper published earlier this week, European ship owners call for a swift ratification of the 2009 IMO Hong Kong Convention (HKC), which is aimed at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment.

European ship owners also call for a smart application of the 2013 EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) so that the latter act as a lever by incentivising ship recycling yards to upgrade towards compliance with the HKC requirements. Finally, EU ship owners also issue recommendations to the shipping industry to ensure the proper recycling of their ships, especially during the interim period preceding the entry into force of the HKC and full application of the EU SRR.

The safe and environment-friendly recycling of end-of-life ships is a topic that has been picking up momentum in the last years and European ship owners are committed to contributing to the efforts to improve the international regulatory framework.

“We need to ensure that the Hong Kong Convention is ratified as soon as possible” said Patrick Verhoeven (pictured), ECSA Secretary-General.

“It places clear obligations on all operators and on all IMO parties to make sure that ship recycling does not entail any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and the environment”.

Unfortunately the ratification efforts have become bogged down due to the entry into force criteria of the Convention, which require both major Flag States and Recycling States to commit to the HKC, leading to a regrettable attitude of wait and see whereby both sides bide their time in anticipation of the other side’s move. European ship owners therefore support the European Commission and Member States in pushing all IMO Member States to ratify the HKC.

More importantly EU ship owners believe that the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, adopted in 2013, can become a valuable tool in bringing the world’s biggest ship recycling yards closer to HKC standards by allowing them to apply for inclusion on the so-called EU List of approved recycling yards where EU flagged ships can be dismantled.

“The Commission needs to set in place an inclusive procedure which would allow all yards to apply for admission to the list. It would thus provide them with a strong incentive to change and improve their practices, bringing them closer to the HKC quality levels” said Mr Verhoeven.

It is the responsibility of ship owners to ensure proper recycling of their vessels, especially during the interim period before the entry into force of the HKC and the application of the EU SRR.

“We call on all ship owners to act in good faith and draw up plans to recycle their ships in a socially responsible and transparent way. In the first instance, this means that ship owners should ensure timely preparation or update of accurate Inventories of Hazardous Materials. We also encourage them to already make use of the EU List of approved recycling yards on a voluntary basis and to engage in constructive dialogue with all stakeholders,” said Mr Verhoeven.