Meeting of the United Nations (UN) Joint Working Group on Ship Recycling in Geneva

INTERTANKO attended the second United Nations (UN) Joint Working Group meeting on Ship Recycling earlier this week in Geneva. The Working Group, comprising the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Basel Convention, was formed to establish a communication between the three UN bodies on the issue of ship recycling. 

The timing of the meeting meant that the three organisations spent considerable time discussing the IMO’s strong activity on this issue, in particular the IMO Assembly’s recent agreement to proceed with a mandatory instrument on ship recycling and also the draft convention proposal recently submitted to the IMO by Norway.  

This latter document provides a draft of a ship recycling convention which takes into account many of the controversial issues which were on the Joint Working Group agenda. These include a number of issues which have been taken from the Basel Convention, such as the implementation of the prior-informed consent concept and a reporting system for ships being sent for recycling.  

Other elements discussed during the meeting include the concept of Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) at the recycling yards and the pre-cleaning of ships prior to recycling. 

It was clear from the three-day meeting that the ILO and the Basel COP are in support of the IMO taking the lead on the issue as this is where the competency for the shipping-related element lies. However, it is also evident that there is still extensive work to be undertaken by the ILO and the Basel COP in order to achieve an improvement in the working standards at the recycling facilities.  

Furthermore, there appears to be a noticeable shift in the primary focus of Greenpeace on this issue. Whereas in the past their focus was equally between the environmental and social elements, their latest report focuses extensively on worker health and safety.  

It was agreed that there is still a role for the Joint Working Group in exchanging ideas and updating each of the UN bodies on the progress being made on ship recycling. However, in view of the current swift movement by the IMO to develop a mandatory instrument, INTERTANKO anticipates that the work of the Group will shift in focus to the areas in which the ILO and the Basel COP can contribute to the IMO’s work, and also to the measures that can be taken during the period in which the IMO will be developing its new legal instrument. 

Contact: Tim Wilkins