RECYCLING, shipbreaking, dismantling or scrapping — no matter how it is termed — is the inevitable end of just about every ship that is ever built.
For obvious reasons it is an activity which has largely migrated to the developing world, in particular to the beaches and high tidal ranges of the sub-continent.
It would be idle to pretend that it is an industry where industrial, developed world contemporary ideas of health, safety and the environment are to be found.
Nevertheless, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, large numbers of people are able to make a living from this activity, with almost all of the products from these redundant ships finding a further use, much of it in the region.
Many of those involved in this business are very conscious of the need to both improve safety and mitigate the effects upon the environment, although their efforts are necessarily incremental and constrained by resources.
Speaking at a Capital Link CSR Forum in London, GMS, non-executive director Dr. Nikos Mikelis (the major cash buyer of ships for recycling) said that ship recycling yards in the sub-continent were improving.
"The European Commission's intention to ban recycling by beaching would bring to an end the improvements that are taking place by effectively removing the incentives towards safer and cleaner recycling," suggested Mr Mikelis.
"Critics should visit the yards and see for themselves the substantial progress that was being made."
Mr Mikelis points out that in many yards, international standards are in place, workers wear protective equipment where this was not available in the past, and concrete hard standing is now being provided on the foreshore of the recycling yards.
This is an important issue, that will affect all ship operators to a greater or lesser extent, who find themselves caught up in the conflict of principle and interest that is likely to rumble on until the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) on the recycling of ships comes into force, hopefully bringing to an end the ambiguities surrounding the applicability of the Basel Convention on the trans-boundary movement of waste and the activities of its various activist supporters. Pressure upon high profile operators to avoid beaching systems of, despite a notable lack of practical alternatives with Chinese yards buying few foreign ships, might be thought to increase the urgency for more flag states to ratify the International Maritime Organization (IMO) treaty and speedily bring it into force.
Source: Fiji Times. 7 January 2015