Two sides to every story

Positive results from Dutch ship owners while global shipbreaking industry still slow to react 

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform recently published a list of all the ships that were brought to Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi shipbreaking facilities last year. The results show that a total of 768 ships were destined for the breaker in 2015. Crucially, according to the NGO, 469 of those vessels were broken in an unsafe and environmentally unfriendly manner. Working conditions and environmental regulations are often inadequate – resulting in numerous fatalities and injuries to personnel together with substantial regional pollution caused by poor handling of hazardous materials.

The announcement marks an important milestone: for the first time ever, not one single Dutch-owned vessel ended up on a shipbreaking beach in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. This fact has been rightly praised by the Dutch maritime industry. Rather than selling their ships to Asian shipbreaking yards, Dutch owners sent a total of 14 vessels for recycling in controlled conditions in specialised yards in Denmark and Turkey last year.

Foto 4Downstream management
Even though the Netherlands has performed well in last year’s figures, there is a flip-side to this positive news if you look at the global state of the shipbreaking industry. This involves the relevant legislation regarding shipbreaking practices: the 2009 Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. “The problem with the Hong Kong convention is it only regulates what happens in the ship breaking yards”, states Clean Shipping Index director Merijn Hougee. “If you look at the issue of ship recycling it is much broader than that. The hazardous waste that comes from the shipbreaking process – asbestos, PCBs heavy metals, you name it – has to go somewhere.”

“Therefore downstream management is a concern because this needs to be controlled and managed in a good way. However, the Hong Kong Convention doesn’t provide for that – it basically stops at the gate of the recycling yard.” That said, having the Hong Kong Convention in place is better than having nothing, Hougee continues. “At least it tries to regulate the practices that are occurring …………………..

Got curious? This article was previously published in Maritime Holland #2 – 2016. Subscribe and contact us for old magazines.