Developing nations, legal experts and NGOs that attended the meeting all voiced the concern that the International Maritime Organization’s Hong Kong Convention will not stop hazardous wastes such as asbestos, PCBs, residue oils and heavy metals from being exported to the poorest communities and most desperate workers in developing counties. The Hong Kong Convention, which was adopted in 2009, but has not yet been ratified by a single country, has no intention of minimizing the movement of toxic ships to developing countries.
Currently the 1989 Basel Convention is the only legal instrument on transboundary movements of waste, and the only legal tool developing countries can successfully use to stop toxic ships from entering their territorial waters.
Liabilities not on the polluter
The developing countries’ statement was supported by the Basel Action Network and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a global coalition of labor rights and environmental organizations dedicated to promoting safe and environmentally sound ship recycling and preventing toxic ships from disproportionately burdening developing countries.
"The Hong Kong Convention is radically different from the Basel Convention as it puts the costs and liabilities of waste management on the importing state and not the polluter – who in this case is the ship owner", said Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. "The Hong Kong Convention does not even prohibit the dangerous beaching method, a substandard method of ship dismantling whereby ships are broken up on tidal beaches by untrained and unprotected workers, causing severe pollution, injuries and deaths."
"The Basel Convention clearly considers that illegal traffic of hazardous waste is a criminal activity. The Hong Kong Convention, however, does not require the criminalization of illegal transfer of hazardous waste", added Dr. Marcos Orellana from the Centre of International Environmental Law (CIEL).
EU acting double faced
While human rights and legal experts asserted that the Hong Kong Convention lacked much of the protections for developing countries found in the Basel Convention, the European Union argued strongly that the two instruments were equivalent. It is widely believed that the European Union and the shipping industry wish to remove ships from the Basel Convention.
"The European Union appears to be towing the shipping industry line to pull ships from a strong legal regime to a weaker one," said Jenssen. "It is shameful that the EU on the one hand claims to be a strong supporter of the Basel Ban Amendment for most hazardous wastes, but when it comes to hazardous waste ships dumped on South Asian beaches by ship owners making great profit at the expense of impoverished, desperate laborers and the local environment, they want Basel to look the other way."
Source: RecyclingPortal.EU (Sourced from NGO Shipbreaking Platform). 24 October 2011