MEPs stage ship recycling debate

Earlier this week, INTERTANKO attended a debating day on ship recycling at the European Parliament in Brussels. Sponsored by the backers of the EcoDock ship recycling concept in the Netherlands together with P&O Nedlloyd, the debate focused heavily on the need for the EU to promote green ship recycling.

Hosted by Mrs. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (MEP, Netherlands, Liberal and Democrats for Europe) the day focused on six bold statements on this key issue:

- beaching must be phased out;
- the ultimate shipowner must be obliged to dismantle the vessel using environmentally sound methods;
- ship owners should pay for ships to be dismantled;
- dismantling must have government approval;
- ship recycling should be part of flag registration;
- single hull tankers must be phased out in an environmentally sound manner.

Various issues were raised in relation to the six statements - the use of the hazardous materials inventory; whether the possibility to reduce beach breaking might be considered an interim measure; the role of the IMO in setting international standards and the need for universal standards; the need for simplicity; funding opportunities for greener ship recycling; how innovative recycling could complement achieving greater competitiveness in Europe, as part of the Lisbon Strategy.

While alarming in the first instance and obviously devised to create debate, the discussion of the six statements did not provide a platform for the environmental organisations to demand ship owner responsibility for this issue. Perhaps due to a distinct lack of awareness about the issue and the shipping industry in general, the debate was more open and positive.

Aside from of the well-known positions and statements expected from the environmental concerns, there was some positive debate on the role of the EU on the issue. A balanced and well-researched paper, delivered by Bernardo Urrutia from the European Commission’s DG TREN, resulted in the realisation by the MEPs present that enforcing strict recycling measures prior to 2010 would not be feasible.

While INTERTANKO and other industry representatives present had been stressing the role of the IMO in this debate, Urrutia also focused on this point, suggesting that the issue was actually one for the IMO and not the EU at this stage. Nevertheless, MEP Mrs. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert stated that the Parliament would continue its consideration of this issue.

This debate did not conclude on whether future European legislation should be anticipated. The awaited overall marine strategy from the European Commission will not include reference to ship recycling however Parliament is likely to raise it in November when discussing the Commission’s 2006 work programme. Meanwhile, both Environment and Transport Council meetings will also discuss ship dismantling when they meet on 24th and 27th June respectively.

Discussions in the European Parliament will not by themselves lead to European legislation, but a debate in Parliament is often an indicator that an issue is likely to grow in significance. Perhaps of crucial significance, discussions in the Council will determine whether Europe’s role is to promote clear legislation at the IMO, or whether Europe will try to develop its own legislative regime.

INTERTANKO will be active on this issue at MEPC 53 when discussion will no doubt focus on the possibility of a mandatory scheme for ship recycling.

Contact: Tim Wilkins