Bangladesh poised to propel Hong Kong Convention into action with imminent ratification of the treaty

Bangladesh is expected to ratify the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, commonly known as the Hong Kong Convention, in the next few weeks.

Illustration; NGO Shipbreaking Platform 2014

The decision was confirmed by the Bangladesh Government during a visit to the country by Norwegian authorities, the Norwegian Shipping Association, the European Community Shipowners’ Association, the International Chamber of Shipping and BIMCO, between 8-11 May 2023.

The upcoming ratification is expected to allow the treaty to finally enter into force, 14 years since its adoption.

The treaty requires a minimum of 15 states, representing 40% of the world’s merchant shipping by gross tonnage, to ratify it for it to enter into force.

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The primary objective of the convention is to ensure that ship recycling activities are carried out in a manner that protects human health and safety, as well as the marine environment.

Key provisions of the Hong Kong Convention include requirements for the safe removal of hazardous materials from ships prior to recycling, the development of ship recycling plans, the certification of ship recycling facilities, and the proper management of waste generated during the recycling process.

“The need for compliant facilities from the main recycling states such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is critical due to the large number of ships expected to be recycled over the next 10 years,” says BIMCO Secretary General and CEO, David Loosley.

 Loosley visited both Chattogram and Dhaka as part of the industry delegation to discuss the benefits of the Convention entering into force.

Bangladesh plays a significant role as a shipbreaking nation due to its prominent shipbreaking industry, being the home to one of the world’s largest shipbreaking industries.

The shipbreaking sector has been a strong revenue generator for the country’s economy and has played a massive role in the development of supporting industries and thus employment opportunities.

However, the safety and environmental aspects of shipbreaking practices in Bangladesh have been under a lot of scrutiny amid improper waste management procedures and frequent worker accidents caused by poor safety procedures.

That being said, the country has been making massive strides in improving workplace safety and handling of hazardous materials with the aim of making its yards more sustainable and still attractive to customers around the globe.

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Therefore, Bangladesh’s latest commitment to expedite the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention sends a strong signal to the shipbreaking industry that it is time to abide by new rules that are more in line with environmental practices and embark on an overhaul of the industry’s activities.

BIMCO has previously called for yards already meeting the standards of the Hong Kong Convention to be added to the EU list of approved yards, as there are currently none outside of the EU on the list. With the Hong Kong Convention entering into force, the focus can increasingly turn to these facilities and increase the much-needed global recycling capacity at yards complying with universal standards.

“The potential for adding to the circular economy is too large to be missed. The ship recycling industry provides thousands of jobs, and the steel is re-used, but it must comply with international safety and environmental regulations, and ship owners must choose to recycle at compliant yards only, to ensure that it is done safely. The Hong Kong Convention entering into force is a crucial step in the right direction,” Loosley added.

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