Toxic Trade News / 13 October 2006
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Ship are not exempt from existing waste rules, insists Brussels
by Lloyd's List
13 October 2006 – The European Commission is to take a firm line on ship dismantling and may consider going beyond the International Maritime Organization’s international convention on ship recycling currently under development, writes Hugh O’Mahony.

Thomas Ormond of the EC’s environment directorate told a British Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association forum yesterday that a Green Paper on the matter that would go out for consultation would adopt a “life cycle approach” to ships stretching from design through operational life to the final stage when they became waste.

Existing law and its implementation was based on the premise that hazardous wastes should not be exported from the European Union to non-OECD countries.

“There is no reason to exclude ships from this,” Dr Ormond said.

“Waste is considered to be any substance which the owner discards or intends to discard. Ships are not exempt. Even if 99% of materials from a ship are reused, when an owner sends his ship for dismantling he shows his intention to recycle.

“Recycling is one of the ways of waste management. The fact that a ship moves by its own force does not exclude it.”

Voluntary commitments made by industry to deal with the problem of ship recycling were welcome and “might be the most effective way of dealing with it. However, we have to see if that is a realistic solution or whether we need legislation”.

Dr Ormond said that not one of the dismantling yards in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan had containment facilities, while there was also little in the way of waste reception facilities.

With a recent study from India suggesting that as many as one in six workers in the Alang shipbreaking yard were suffering from asbestosis, “we have a waste problem and from the waste point of view ships are one of the main streams of hazardous waste to southern Asia”.

Dr Ormond said the most important thing happening now was the development of an IMO Convention on ship recycling. However, because such a convention was not expected to be adopted before 2008-2009 and IMO instruments took an average of six years to be ratified, other action was required.

With around 1,300 single-hull oil tankers to be phased out by 2015, “asbestos-ridden warships and passengerships of the 1960s and 1970s coming up for dismantling” and 25% of end-of-life merchants being now or having once been EU-flagged, he added: “We have a moral responsibility from which we cannot exempt ourselves.

“One thought is how any sustainable and environmentally acceptable and safe ship disposal could be funded long term. Is it public money, state aid to developing countries or structural funds to facilities within the EU? Or is it not better to think of a solution where the polluter pays? This will be given some thought in the Green Paper.”

The EC had also commissioned a study on ship dismantling and pre-cleaning of ships due to report next spring. It would include a “review of governance” considering the IMO draft convention and “look to see if there are any gaps where we can make it more effective”.

For example, the IMO convention would probably not cover government vessels, or smaller ships of 400-500 gt. Warships would also be on the EC’s agenda.

Most significantly, perhaps, consideration would have to be given to single hull tankers due to be phased out before the IMO convention was likely to be ratified.

The extent of the EC’s reach was also up for discussion. Dr Ormond said: “Rules for EU-flagged vessels would not work in a worldwide context. Such a legislative limit would lead only to mass reflagging.

“We should rather have, probably, the port or the trading with Europe as the significant point.

“If we cannot agree to that sort of rule any legislation would be in doubt.”

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