05 April 2013

Ship Recycling Fund Approved by European Parliament

The European Parliament’s environment committee voted to create a Europe-wide ship recycling fund, in response to the European Commission’s proposed rules to ensure that European ships are only recycled in facilities that are safe for workers and environmentally sound.

More than 1000 large old commercial ships, such as tankers and container vessels, are recycled for their scrap metal every year, but many European ships end up in substandard facilities on the tidal beaches of South Asia. These facilities mostly lack the environmental protection and safety measures needed to manage the hazardous materials — such as asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributyl tin and oil sludge — contained in end-of-life ships. This leads to high accident rates and health risks for workers and extensive environmental pollution, according to the European Commission.

In 2009, more than 90 % of European ships were dismantled in ship recycling facilities in non-OECD countries, some of which were substandard. The quantity of European end-of-life ships is significant, since 17 % of world tonnage is registered under an EU flag. This makes it a priority for the EU to improve ship dismantling practices worldwide.

Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik said: “Although the ship recycling sector has improved its practices, many facilities continue to operate under conditions that are dangerous and damaging. This proposal aims to ensure that our old ships are recycled in a way that respects the health of workers as well as the environment. It is a clear signal to invest urgently in upgrading recycling facilities.” The new rules, which will take the form of a Regulation, propose a system of survey, certification and authorization for large commercial seagoing vessels that fly the flag of an EU Member State, covering their whole life cycle from construction to operation and recycling.

Ship recycling facilities will have to meet a set of environmental and safety requirements in order to be included on a list of authorized facilities world wide. European ships will be allowed to be recycled only in facilities on the list. Some of the requirements to be met by the ship recycling facilities are stricter than those foreseen by the Hong Kong Convention. This will ensure better traceability for European ships, and will guarantee that the waste resulting from dismantling (and any hazardous materials it contains) is managed in an environmentally sound way.

The proposal will see a recycling fund be set up, which would be financed by a recycling levy charged for any port call by EU or non-EU ships, writes Waste Management World. Owners of EU ships that are sold for recycling and that end up sent to a beach or facility not on the EU list would face penalties.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a global coalition of 18 environmental, human rights and labor rights organizations promoting clean and safe ship recycling, issued a press release in January calling on the European Parliament and the Council to include a financial mechanism in order to turn the Commission proposal into an effective instrument to promote responsible ship recycling and to level the playing field globally. “Every year, more European end-of-life ships containing hazardous materials are sent to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Such practices are unacceptable and Europe is in the driver’s seat to put a stop to this on-going human rights and environmental disaster,” says Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Only a financial mechanism enforced in EU ports can properly internalize costs and close loopholes, which have allowed ships until now to escape legislation and accountability.”

The Shipbreaking Platform applauded the vote.

Source: environmental leader 3 April 2013

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