IMO move forward on Ship Recycling Convention

Pending final approval by its Council, the IMO will be holding a Diplomatic Conference in May next year in Hong Kong to adopt the International Ship Recycling Convention.


The agreement to proceed with this means that the IMO has now only a limited period in which to finalise the draft Convention. Thus this week's meeting of the Ship Recycling Working Group in Nantes, France, was an important step in finalising the text of this instrument.


INTERTANKO's participation in the Working Group consisted of focusing on ensuring that there is clarity and practicality during the final stage of sending a ship for recycling. This required the development of a full definition of 'Ready for Recycling', as well as coming up with a clear procedure for gaining approval from the recycling state confirming that a ship is acceptable, and then requesting the flag administration to undertake the final survey declaring the vessel ready for recycling.


This issue has been potentially problematic for the ship owner, who would have had to await approval from the recycling state. This earlier approval to be able to recycle the vessel is based on the ship recycling facility developing a ship-specific ship recycling plan and depositing this with the recycling state for approval. Meanwhile, the vessel is able to continue trading if required.


However, this important part of the Convention was only one of a number of discussions within the Working Group this week. A significant issue for Member States is the question concerning parties and non-parties to the Convention. Some states are requesting that a clause be inserted into the Convention which allows non-party recycling facilities to recycle party ships and, vice versa, non-party ships to be recycled at party facilities. Many Member States, however, objected to this approach contending that it undermines the spirit of the Convention.


What is of key importance to the industry is that, when the Convention finally enters into force, there should be a sufficient number of authorised recycling facilities to manage any increase in demand and encourage an open market.


The IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will now be requested to go through the latest draft of the Convention as the text nears its final form.


In a separate process, the European Union (EU) is also working on a policy on ship dismantling. On 22 May 2007 the European Commission published a discussion paper (Green Paper) on ship dismantling (see Weekly NEWS No. 03/2008 of 18 January 2008). This week, in response to the Commission's paper, the European Parliament's Transport Committee and the Environment Committee also debated this issue.


Even at this early stage in the discussions, it is already quite clear that the European Parliament sees a pro-active role for the EU in this area. It is particularly interesting to note that the different political groups appear to agree that Europe should attain expertise in this field and, without robbing the existing ship dismantlers of their livelihood, develop a ship dismantling industry.


Members of the Committee stressed that the EU should press ahead with a policy on ship dismantling without waiting for the IMO to take action. Without going into too much detail, MEPs argued/insisted that:


-         Europe should establish common standards for proper dismantling and introduce compulsory insurance for the sound dismantling of a ship;

-         a ship dismantling fund should be set up and Member States should be held responsible for a ship flying their flag - even outside the EU;

-         ships containing waste or hazardous materials, e.g. asbestos, should not be transported to a non-OECD country, in compliance with the Waste Shipment Regulation.


The Parliament's views will be expressed in a non-binding opinion and are likely to have a significant impact on the Commission's policy on ship dismantling. The Commission aims to put forward an EU strategy in the forthcoming Communication on Ship Dismantling by the end of 2008. This may include a list of global environmentally sound dismantling sites, guidelines on how to deal with the issue (e.g. through port controls or a fuller implementation of the Basel Convention) and funding options.


Contact: Tim Wilkins