Photo: Image courtesy: NGO Shipbreaking Platform 2012

NGOs: South Asian shipbreakers can’t be included in EU list of approved facilities

Image courtesy: NGO Shipbreaking Platform 2012

Environmental organizations are warning that the European Union’s legislation allowing the export of toxic ships to developing countries violates the union members’ obligations under the Basel Convention and is in contradiction with the Green Deal.

The Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and prevent the transfer of that waste from developed to less developed countries.

The convention has already ruled that operational ships can be considered as hazardous wastes due to the many toxics embedded within their structure. 

Under the EU’s Ship Recycling Regulation, EU-flagged commercial vessels above 500 GT must be recycled in safe and environmentally sound ship recycling facilities that are included on the European list of approved ship recycling facilities.

The list was first established in 2016 and is periodically updated to add additional compliant facilities or remove those that don’t comply.

It predominantly contains EU-based, or Turkey-based yards, while the majority of shipbreaking facilities from South Asia don’t meet the safety and environmental requirements to be included.

There have been some improvements at certain yards in Alang, India, however, South Asia is notorious for poor working and safety standards for its workers leading to numerous injuries and fatalities.

The NGOs called upon the EU to take urgent action to reform both the Waste Shipment Regulation and the Ship Recycling Regulation to ensure they are legally consistent with the convention.

The calls are being issued on the back of proposals made by the EU to sign a special bilateral agreement with certain shipbreaking states like India. The NGOs claim this way the EU would circumvent the Basel Convention’s Ban Amendment, which entered into global force last December.

Put simply, the EU procedure of filling out paperwork and permitting toxic ships to go to the beaches of South Asia for the purposes of their disposal/recycling can never be an equivalent level of control and protection as a rule that bans such export,” says Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network (BAN).

Now that the Ban Amendment is in force, it is binding international lawShipbreaking yards in developing countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can therefore not be placed on the EU’s list of approved ship recycling destinations.

Under the EU Green Deal and the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), the EU should not export its waste challenges to third countries.

Under the EU Green Deal, Europe wants to lead the way on a global stage in becoming climate neutral by 2050.

The NGOs insist the EU should show greater resilience in providing more green jobs in the EU.

Such action will send a signal to the rest of the world that the EU is not serious about a responsible circular economy and international law

By allowing the breaking of European vessels in the Global South, Europe is not only exporting hazardous waste and threatening people’s health in developing countries, but also contradicting its own ambition to boost the domestic supply of secondary raw materials – as set out in its circular economy action plan,” says Stéphane Arditi, Circular Economy Policy Manager at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The NGOs call on the EU to boost safe and clean ship recycling in Europe, as well as to promote the design and building of toxic-free vessels and to push for ‘zero-emissions steel’ initiatives.

South Asian beaches remain the front-runner destinations for dismantling of ships in the global fleet.

There were a total of 98 ships broken in the second quarter of 2020, of which 60 ships were sold to the beaches of South Asia, data from NGO Shipbreaking Platform shows.

During the quarter, Greek ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, closely followed by Singaporean and South Korean owners. 

Almost one third of the ships sold to South Asia this quarter changed flag to the registries of Comoros, Palau and St. Kitts and Nevis just weeks before hitting the beach, the Q2 report from the platform reads.