17 May 2012

Shipbreaking: The European Union surrenders

The European Union continues to show interest for the conditions of shipbreaking. After the ‘’Green Paper on Better Ship Dismantling’’ from the European Commission in 2007, the European Parliament resolution on “the European strategy for better ship dismantling” in 2009 and a series of meetings between all parties interested about the end of a ship’s life, the Commission just proposed new regulation on ship demolition, to be discussed at the next Parliament and European Council meetings. In the first place, meetings will be about “requiring member-States to ratify the Hong Kong convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships”. Signed in 2009, the convention has not at this time been ratified by any of the IMO members and will be archaic when it goes into effect.

During this long wait, the transitional european regulation must secure the interim. The European Union put their ambition on hold. Yesterday it envisioned the anticipated application of the Hong Kong convention or even an enlargement of its constraints; today, it is just about to designate the dismantling sites fulfilling the convention requirements and take into account the measures of demolition preparation such as the inventory of hazardous materials and the recycling plan. Even though the actual European regulation forbids a minima, but without success, export to a non-OCDE country, the opportunity to dismantle in a distant facility provided that it be included in the European list is considered a satisfying issue to the penury of European sites…But is it the penury of sites in Europe that oblige European ship owners to export, or the exportation that holds back the emergence of such an industry in Europe?

Only the ships flying the flag of a member-State of the European Union are concerned by the regulation. The notion once put before the Commission of ‘’Ships with strong links to Europe’’ has been whisked away. The carrying out of this regulation showed itself useless. Close to 40% of ships that left to be demolished belonged to a European ship owner, but only 13% sail under European colors. A dissuasive measure is targeted at shipowners who send their ships to sites not agreed upon. Article 23 of the regulation project previews sanctions of which the amount is not defined : ‘Where a ship is sold and, within less than 6 months after the selling, is sent for recycling in a facility which is not included in the European list, the penalties shall be:
a) jointly imposed to the last and penultimate owner if the ship is still flying the flag of an European Member State;
b) only imposed to the penultimate owner if a ship is not flying anymore the flag of an European Member State.’’

This tortuous article 23 applied to the world’s oceans will be easily bypassed by dropping anchor for more than 6 months in a remote bay, by sales to ephemeral ghost companies, and transfers under specialized flags like Tuvalu, Mongolia, Comoros, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Togo, Moldavia…

Source: Robin Des Bois. 7 May 2012

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