The legislation meant to regulate ship recycling practices, in particular the European Union Ship Recycling Regulation and the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention, mainly based on flag state jurisdiction will neither be able to solve the problems of substandard shipbreaking nor enforce the polluter pays principle on ship owners, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform stressed.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform published today a briefing paper titled “What a difference a flag makes – Why ship owners’ responsibility to ensure sustainable ship recycling needs to go beyond flag state jurisdiction”.
The analysis of the link between flags of convenience (FOCs), in particular “end-of-life flags” and substandard shipbreaking practices, shows that FOCs are likely to undermine the implementation of the polluter pays principle by making it easy for ship owners to circumvent legislation by flagging-out to a non-party or a non-compliant flag. In conclusion, the briefing paper asserts that solutions urgently needed to ensure sustainable ship recycling must go beyond flag state jurisdiction in order to close the loopholes created by the FOC system.
According to the Shipbreaking Platform, most ship owners circumvent existing legislation meant to protect in particular developing countries from hazardous wastes present within the structure of end-of-life vessels, and are therefore not held accountable for polluting and dangerous shipbreaking practices. Only a small number of ship-owning companies have taken voluntary measures to ensure the clean and safe recycling of their obsolete vessels. For the sake of higher profits, most ship owners sell their end-of-life vessels with the help of a cash buyer to a shipbreaking yard that lacks proper infrastructure and safe working conditions. It is a choice of profits at the cost of people and the environment.
The European Union has a particular responsibility to provide solutions to the shipbreaking problem as around 40% of the world’s commercial fleet is owned by European companies and one third of the tonnage broken every year in substandard yards in South Asia was sold by European companies.
“The EU is at risk of failing to fulfill its promise of reversing the current trend where Europe’s ship owners can profit from dirty and dangerous shipbreaking,” says Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform in a letter to new EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.
“We call on the Commissioner to present an instrument which goes beyond flag state jurisdiction, such as the currently discussed financial mechanism, and creates a strong incentive for ship owners to choose clean and safe recycling.”