11 August 2016

Turning the tide at Alang:

”Absolutely. This is a long term commitment from our side.” was the emphatic reply from Annette Stube, Head of Group Sustainability of  AP Moller Maersk, in an e-mail response to this correspondent to the question about future plans regarding collaboration with Indian ship-recycling yards? She added, The main investment is on the side of the yard. We have decided to put our business there and work with the yard to further improve standards. This means we today have a full headcount in Alang to supervise all processes and help the yard upgrading. We additionally have some project staff and will also study how we can best support the general development of the broader Alang area, also, although indirectly, connected to ship recycling.”

This week two container vessels,  Maersk Georgia and Maersk Wisconsin,belonging to Maersk Line sailed from Jebel Ali and anchored off Alang in Gujarat for demolition at the Shree Ram Recycling Yard.  The vessel Maersk Georgia had in the past made ​​scheduled trips to India bringing in import cargo and carrying export loaded containers destined to various part of the world. Once upon a time she was anxiously awaited upon by exporters, importers and the Maersk commercial staff at the various offices in India who would prepare the load list or download the Import General Manifest.  She was now making her final journey to Alang barely noticed by anybody save her buyers.

But the berthing was not without significance.  India along with Pakistan and Bangladesh had built up an unflattering reputation for harmful beaching practices of vessels and alarmingly sub-standard working conditions for its workers. Why did the world’s largest shipping company Maersk line, known for its tenacious commitment to clean environment and human safety issues, choose Alang? What had changed at Alang?

Alang, owing to the natural contours of the landscape and tidal movements is an ideal location for beaching of the vessels. The first of the vessels arrived at Alang in the early ‘80 s. From a trickle, the passage of vessels to Alang had turned into a flood. The place soon acquired a deleterious reputation for appalling working conditions for its labours and scant regard for environmental pollution control.

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The environmental regulators soon muscled their way in, decrying the methods of recycling and forbidding ship owners to use Alang. The once bustling activities at Alang soon came to a grinding halt. The situation became tense with hundreds of workers finding themselves out of a job.

But Lily Maritime, a Ship Management Service provider and Consultants for the past 15 years was  steadily working to ameliorate the working conditions of the labour and at the same time remove detrimental procedures, currently followed in many yards in Alang, for disposal of hazardous material in accordance with the Hong Kong convention. Four shipyards were earmarked by them for improvement. Capt. Rahul Varma General Manager in Charge of Green Ship Recycling at Lily Maritime said, “It is critical to understand the rules and regulation of the HKC, for implementation at the yards. Quality comes first for us.”

Their efforts had been recognised by ClassNK Japan whose mission was to ‘ensuring the safety of life and property at sea, and the prevention of pollution of the marine environment. Yasushi Seto, General Manager of Executive Operations Department, at ClassNK in an e-mail response to this correspondent, said “ClassNK has issued the HKC Statement of Compliances to four ship recycling facilities in India, and recognizes eight ship recycling facilities in India that are being upgraded.”

This is good news for Alang. With the help of the Maersk Group, if more recycling yards come forward to align themselves with HKC, Alang could well compete with recycling yards in Turkey and China and be the preferred destination for the vessels in their final journey.

Source: economic times. 2 June 2016

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