27 October 2013

Strasbourg plenary: Ship recycling vote receives mixed reaction

Policymakers, stakeholders and NGO's express the need to ensure that ship owners are forced to apply the polluter pays principle following the plenary vote on ship recycling.

Ingvild Jenssen is a policy advisor at NGO shipbreaking platform

Without a financial incentive, circumvention of European law covering end-of-life vessels will persist and European ship owners will be allowed to continue to seek significant financial profits by externalising environmental and human health costs to the shipbreaking beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and to the exploited workforce there.

The new Ship recycling regulation does nothing to prevent ship owners from jumping register to a non-EU flag prior to sending their ships for breaking in order to avoid falling under the requirements of the law. In 2012, three quarters of European owned vessels broken on the beaches of South Asia were registered under non-EU flags such as Panama, Liberia and Bahamas. With the new regulation being a further incentive to flag out, vessels still registered under a flag of an EU member state at end-of-life is likely to decline even further to a disillusioning number of ships, rendering the impact of the ship recycling regulation non-existent for the purpose of improving ship recycling practices.

The new regulation asks the European commission to elaborate on the possibilities of a financial mechanism to enhance clean and safe ship recycling. Recent studies have proposed an array of possible mechanisms to implement the polluter pays principle for end-of-life ships and have clearly shown that a financial incentive for proper ship recycling is legally feasible, enforceable, and necessary to ensure compliance with the law.

Sabine Wils is the GUE/NGL group shadow rapporteur on Ship recycling

Unfortunately, the original report on ship recycling changed substantially due to plenary votes and trialogue outcomes. In fact, the report has been watered down so significantly that I could not vote in favour but voted against it.

Why? Well, ships which are going to get scrapped are classified as hazardous waste and should be dismantled in proper facilities. However, last year alone at least 265 European ships were recycled on beaches in South Asia (the so-called beaching). The conditions on these beaches are horrible for the workers and the environment respectively: many workers suffer from severe injuries due to hardly any safety at work (gashes at their feet and arms, asbestos inhalation, falls from great heights etc.). In addition, oil and other chemicals flow into the sea or ooze onto the beach while metal objects of all sizes and other waste is rotting away without necessary provisions.

In contradiction to what some MEPs say, the report will not make beaching impossible. In addition, the report lacks a monetary incentive (either realised with an extra harbour fee or a fund) directed at ship-owners to recycle their ships only in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. Thus, the two most important issues concerning ship recycling are not sufficiently tackled since the interests of the ship-owner is to make as much money as possible from scrapped ships take priority over a strong and sound regulation.

Isabelle Ryckbost is secretary general of European sea ports organisation (ESPO)

The new EU regulation will allow ships flying the flag of an EU member state to be scrapped outside the EU provided that strict standards are met. These standards effectively mean the end of "beaching" where ships are simply taken apart on a beach, with consequences for human health and the environment. Regular inspections, commission assessments and an increased role for NGOs will assist in ensuring compliance with these standards. Finally, under the new regulation, the commission is required to come up with a proposal on the feasibility of an incentive mechanism three years after entry into force.

We welcomed the balanced outcome of the political process on ship recycling. Conscious ship recycling is an important issue with serious social and environmental impacts. In that respect, ESPO urges member states to ratify the 2009 Hong Kong international convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships as soon as possible, allowing its global application. Furthermore, we remain at the disposition of all parties involved in view of further discussing the appropriate application of the polluter pays principle in ship recycling.

Source: Parliament. 25 October 2013

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