12 March 2012

Brussels pitches for solution to European scrap exports:

A draft paper to replace the European Union (EU)’s Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) and provide shipowners with the means to legally export vessels for scrapping in developing countries is said to be at an advanced stage. 

Soledad Blanco, director of international affairs at the European Commission (EC), used the TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum in Dubai last year to highlight the ease with which the WSR, which is based on the Basel Convention and Basel Amendment, is being circumvented by owners.

The Basel Convention is designed to prevent the movement of hazardous waste from developed to non-developed countries but, where shipping is concerned, Europe is said to have experienced an evasion rate of over 90%.

The new EU regulation, which is based on the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC), will cover the interim period until the HKC enters into force.

It may seek to use bilateral agreements with other countries such as China or India so that recycling yards in those countries can be authorised to recycle European ships.

To succeed, Brussels bureaucrats will have to come up with a means of grading overseas yards as acceptable or not.

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ship-recycling chief Dr Nikos Mikelis says it is not feasible for Europe to maintain an ongoing audit of yards until the HKC kicks in.

Its best option is to find recycling states willing to voluntarily implement key requirements contained in the IMO recycling convention.

“The early entry into force on a voluntary basis is always a requirement of these conventions but for ship recycling the only way I can see it working is with a big block [such as Europe or China],” said Mikelis.

He is organising a seminar in Beijing in May, to be attended by Chinese government ministries, the EU and shipowners associations, to discuss such an initiative.

Also, Europe is very significant in terms of getting the recycling convention eventually ratified because it controlled in 2010, along with dependent territories, 23% of the world fleet.

Combined with hopefully other convention supporters like Norway, Japan and China, “you are almost there”, says Mikelis.

He adds that he is not disappointed by no party having so far ratified because he acknowledges the time it takes for individual countries to introduce the necessary legislation. The HKC has the additional complication of involving so many ministries including environment and labour.

India, he points out, already has many elements of the HKC following Supreme Court rulings in 2008.

Meanwhile, the position of Mikelis and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) opposing the convention remain polarised.

“They want to close down Bangladesh, then Pakistan and India,” said Mikelis. These are countries that need recycling, countries that use everything they get from the ships.”

He added: “I’m a lobbyist for reality, real systems that respect the way commerce is done and respects the way shipping is.

They [NGOs] lobby for fairy tales.”

Source: TradeWinds Business Report. By Geoff Garfield. 9 March 2012

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