On April 12, the European Commission published new legal guidelines which – advocates suggest – may prevent South Asian beaching shipbreakers from receiving required certification for dismantling EU-flag state vessels.
The implementation document states that "applying environmentally sound management principles and compliance with regulations for recycling a ship will rely, at least partly, on developing appropriate infrastructure. Operationally, it follows . . . that the transfer of elements from the ship to the facility’s impermeable floor is done without the elements coming in contact with the sea, the intertidal zone or any other permeable surface such as sand or gravel."
Yards in the developing world handle an estimated 70 percent of the world’s obsolete tonnage; they generally rely on grounding ships onto soft beaches, where the hulks are dismantled at competitive rates through the use of migrant labor and basic implements. The operation involves cutting blocks off of the beached vessels and dropping them by gravity onto the beach, where they are winched up the shore for further scrapping. Bangladeshi safety advocates BELA suggest that over 90 workers have died carrying out these practices over the course of the last seven years; shipbreakers in the country face charges of contempt of court for failure to improve conditions.
Advocates with NGO Shipbreaking Platform suggest that the EC’s requirements will restrict shipbreaking activity to safer and less polluting yards in the developed world. As a measure of the regulation's stringency, it would disallow EU certification for some federally-regulated American shipbreaking yards, which presently rely on the use of permeable tidal beaches and adjacent land.
“Recycling yards that want to make it on the EU list of approved facilities need to meet high environmental and safety standards. The EC is clear in its message: an unprotected beach is never going to be an appropriate place for a high-risk heavy industry involving hazardous waste management”, said Ingvild Jenssen, Policy Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
However, the guidelines on facilities contain a caveat that could permit certification for yards with limited capital improvements. The hull of the scrapped ship itself can be considered an "impermeable floor," so long as its integrity is sound, pollution from dismantlement is controlled, and cut blocks are lifted clear to a separate impermeable area for scrapping. A drydock is not required to meet the minimum infrastructure standards for certification. After cutting upper blocks free, the bottom of the hull would also have to be winched clear onto an impermeable, well-drained surface in order to complete the dismantlement process.
In February, Maersk announced a partnership with four beaching yards in Alang, India, intended to win EU and Hong Kong Convention certification for their operations. Maersk Group did not immediately return a request for comment.
Source: maritime-executive. 13 April 2016