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Ship recycling seminar marks tenth anniversary of the Hong Kong Convention

The Naval Architect: June 2019Ship recycling

Only 11 countries have either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which requires signatories accounting for a minimum of 40% of the combined gross tonnage of the world merchant fleet to enter into force (the current total stands at around 23.2%) and 3% of gross tonnage when the ships are recycled.


But its advocates argue changes have already been achieved. Statements of Compliance (SoCs) with the Convention have been issued by classification societies to more than 60 recycling facilities globally, many in the shipbreaking hubs of India and Turkey. Moreover, a range of initiatives are underway to help countries the desired standards.


Moreover, since 31 December 2018 EU regulations require that vessels trading under the flags of its member states can only be recycled at facilities on the so-called European List, which includes just three shipyards outside of Europe. To compound matters, China also announced new environmental protection measures meaning that only domestic-owned ships can now be recycled at its facilities.


In May, Japan’s transport ministry hosted an international seminar on ship recycling at IMO headquarters in London. Two months earlier, it became the 10th country to ratify the Convention and is playing an active role in promoting its early entry.


Cradle to grave
IMO secretary general Kitack Lim opened proceedings with an address in which he emphasised the importance of the Convention as a ‘cradle to grave’ solution for ship recycling and its significance in supporting sustainable development, noting that while the current signatory states accounted for 23% of gross tonnage their combined recycling volume was just 1.6 million gt, or 0.56%.


Lim highlighted the workshops, training and other projects IMO is using to raise awareness of the Convention, particularly with regard to the recycling countries themselves. One example is the ongoing ‘Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling in Bangladesh’ (SENSREC), funded in part by the Norwegian government’s international development programme.


SENSREC has conducted studies and developed training materials aimed at boosting safety and environmental standards and led to the passing of the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act 2018, which aims to achieve Convention compliance within five years. Bangladesh accounts for 20% of ships recycled but the working standards at facilities in Chittagong have been a focus for organisations such as the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.


In India, more than 80 yards have been issued SoCs and Dashrath Prasad, director of the Indian Ministry of Shipping, said that it has agreed in principle to ratify. However, Nitin Kanakiya, secretary for the Ship Recycling Industries Association (India), observed that these facilities are often struggling to compete. Moreover, standards between yards vary according to which IACS member has inspected them.


China has also signalled its intention to ratify despite the current ban on the scrapping of foreign vessels. Chunchang Zhang, deputy director of the China Maritime Safety Administration, said there are now more than 60 recycling companies in the country, but tightening environmental regulations saw scrapping plummet from 148 vessels in 2015 to 37 in 2018. Liaising with other Chinese ministries to ensure national laws are consistent with the Convention’s requirements remains the main obstacle, said Zhang.


Shipowner support
Among shipowners there is, publicly at least, strong support for the Convention. Tim Wilkins of trade association Intertanko said his sector is under particular scrutiny with regard to its recycling. One of the requirements of both the Convention and the EU is the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM), but obtaining accurate materials declarations remains a challenge, a factor in some shipowners and cash buyers often seeking out less scrupulous yards.


Classification societies are contributing strongly in this particular area, with platforms such as ClassNK’s PrimeShip-GREEN/SRM, a cloud-based data system, making it possible to consolidate materials declarations from different suppliers during the construction phase, or even retrospectively. According the ClassNK’s general manager, Junichi Hirata, the service now has around 3,000 users worldwide.


Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, praised the remarkable development in ship recycling practices since 2009, while criticising the “significant difficulties” caused by the EU regulations, adding that the approved list was doing very little to encourage best practices.


But there was truculent defence of the EU’s stance from Peter Koller, policy officer for the European Commission’s waste management and recycling department, who stressed that when the regulations were being drawn up in 2012-2013 there were serious concerns the Convention would not enter into force.