Brussels -- During an EU Environment Council meeting in Luxembourg, EU Member States were split when debating a proposal by the Cyprus presidency of the European Union to heavily water down the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on ship recycling. According to NGO Shipbreaking Platform, EU governments, amongst whom Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Estonia, and Sweden, supported the existing ban on the export of end-of-life ships containing hazardous wastes to developing countries.
In its current form, the Commission proposal could effectively legalize the export of end-of-life ships containing hazardous wastes from the EU to developing countries, a proposal deemed appropriate by not only Cyprus, but also several other European governments.
"We call on the Environment Council and EU governments supporting the Cyprus position to be sensible," said Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. "The Commission proposal in its current form cannot, and will not pass the test of effectively preventing hazardous wastes from being dumped in developing countries."
Last July the European Economic and Social Committee said the Commission proposal is "weak and full of legal loopholes", and concluded that "the political will [to solve the problem] is manifestly absent".
Implemented into European law
The ban on the export of end-of-life ships containing hazardous wastes was implemented into European law with the 2006 Waste Shipment Regulation. Since then, it’s illegal for any ship to leave any EU port for a shipbreaking destination located in non-OECD countries. In 2006, the French aircraft carrier "Le Clémenceau" was brought back to Europe after it was proved that the ship would be beached in India and the hazardous materials it contained would pollute the land and harm local communities.
But at this Council meeting, most Environment ministers seemed ready to rid the EU of the Waste Shipment Regulation’s competency over ships, claiming the current ban is too easily circumvented by shipowners. "Realizing that EU Member States have failed to adequately enforce the existing EU regulation on waste shipments, the Council seems ready to circumvent this regulation altogether, rather than to give Member States proper enforcement mechanisms", critizies Patrizia Heidegger.
Only 8 percent EU-flagged
Out of all ships sent for breaking every year, 40 percent are owned by European companies, whereas only 8 percent are flagged in the EU. The Commission proposal aims at regulating only EU-flagged ships sent for breaking, thus only covering 8 percent of all end-of-life vessels. Basing the future EU ship recycling regulation on flags competency only is in line with the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention, which was signed in 2009. In today’s Council debate, some EU governments including Belgium stated that the main goal of the Commission proposal is to speed up Hong Kong ratification and - says NGO Shipbreaking Platform - completely ignored the consequences on the bans on exports of hazardous wastes to developing countries.
"Currently, the combined capacity of ship recycling facilities located in OECD countries would be enough to properly recycle most of EU-flagged and EU-owned ships," argues Patrizia Heidegger. "Instead of scrapping the EU ban on hazardous wastes exports to developing countries, the EU should promote green ship recycling at home."
Source: recycling portal.