12 March 2012

Top dollar still top priority for scrap ship owners:

Hopes have been dashed that owners might have pulled their weight.

Hopes that shipowners would voluntarily implement technical aspects of the new Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC) because of the years it will take to actually enter into force appear to have been dashed.

Commercial pressures mean that the vast majority of owners still pay little attention to whether their end-of-life vessels end up in a yard that complies with the requirements of the convention. Top dollar remains paramount.

Consequently, the vast majority of vessels are still heading for the Indian subcontinent. India may have moved toward compliance with the convention through such requirements as hazardous materials declarations but Bangladesh and Pakistan have a long way to go.

Tom Peter Blankestijn, founder of green-recycling supervision company Sea2Cradle, says he was hoping for a gradual increase in the number of owners sending, for ethical reasons, their ships for recycling alongside piers in China, rather than beaching, but he was too optimistic. There has been no large-scale change of attitude.

It is still mainly restricted to Scandinavian and Japanese owners, as well as oil majors, says Blankestijn.

“We are far way from voluntary implementation of the convention,” he added.

Blankestijn says take-up for inventories of hazardous materials (IHMs) has been limited mainly to newbuildings and not existing ships.

This is despite shipowners’ associations such as the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Intertanko agreeing to support voluntary implementation of the convention’s technical requirements, including IHMs.

Recently there has also been criticism of the continuing installation or use of asbestos in ships, either at the newbuilding or refit stage, prohibition of which forms part of the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) Convention as well as the HKC, and which has potentially serious implications when vessels have to be scrapped.

The ongoing use of asbestos in equipment installations cannot necessarily be blamed on owners, although observers point out that they have site teams present at yards. Class has been accused of not being sufficiently vigilant in their checks, instead accepting asbestos-free declarations at face value. Procedures, it is claimed, will tighten following a recent submission by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Blankestijn concurs with critic Henning Gramann of Green Ship Recycling (GSR) Services that there has been inadequate scrutiny of vessels for asbestos but says that in most cases the material does not pose a hazard provided people know where it is located and dust is not released.

Meanwhile, he declines to comment on if and when the HKC will be ratified but says the process has been complicated by including recycling capacity as one of the entry-into-force criteria.

“The big flag states will be waiting for the big recycling states and vice-versa,” said Blankestijn.

Blankestijn says Sea2Cradle, a company borne out of the former Maersk Ship Recycling, handled seven “green” recycling projects for owners last year. 3 involved LNG carriers for oil majors, 2 were car carriers and 2 Usflag containerships.

All were handled in China apart from one smaller ship at Van Heyghen in Belgium, although the same vessel-recycling plans were used.

Blankestijn claims that waste handling in Belgium and China is similar, although Van Heyghen makes greater use of shear cutting equipment as opposed to gas cutting in China.

Sea2Cradle has, according to Blankestijn, a long-term contract to co-operate with AP Moller-Maersk whenever it has ships for demolition.

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

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