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ECSA sees one upside to the EU's scrapping regulations

The European Community Shipowners' Associations, ECSA, has voiced fierce criticism toward the EU's list of approved ship recycling facilities. But the association is now taking a more positive stance, viewing the list as a means that can help ensure implementation of the Hong Kong convention.

Photo: Louise Vogdrup-Schmidt

The ECSA, European Community Shipowners' Association, has been highly critical of the EU's list of shipbreaking facilities approved for scrapping EU-flagged vessels.

The shipowners have especially stressed the importance of not distorting competition between European and international shipowners, the latter of which are free to use facilities not cleared by the EU when scrapping vessels.

Furthermore, there is far from sufficient capacity at the European facilities to handle the many ships which are expected to face scrapping in the coming years, the ECSA has warned.

But now the association says that the EU list is not all bad for the carriers. In fact, it could help speed up the ratification of the shipowners' preferred directive, the global Hong Kong convention.

"The EU list is a tool that can help push the ratification of the Hong Kong convention through. And for this, we need the EU to take into account the improvements which several yards in Alang have achieved," Benoit Loicq, head of safety and the environment at ECSA, tells ShippingWatch.

Scrapping driven by money

Including these yards on the EU list will serve as leverage to get the full IMO shipbreaking convention – the Hong Kong convention – settled.

This should happen, even though critics point out that the conditions at the shipyards on the highly controversial scrapping beach Alang are still a far cry from the EU's standards, though several yards here have been certified according to the Hong Kong standards.

35 scrapping yards want approval from the EU

"It's really very positive what's happening in Alang. Of course there's room for improvement, but the yards are working on it and they should be cleared for the list," says Benoit Loicq:

"The idea is also to show the yards at Alang which have yet to upgrade their facilities and apply for inclusion on the EU list that it pays to make the improvements. Commercial interests are also part of the shipbreaking market, and I believe that this should be taken into account as well. I view this as a transition period, and that we should take advantage of this period and help out in terms of inclusion on the EU list as well as ratification of the Hong Kong convention."

Reply to non-EU facilities this year

The EU Commission published its list of approved EU-based shipbreaking facilities just before Christmas, which features a total of 18 approved yards. Applications from non-EU shipyards have yet to be processed, but the EU Commission informed that 18 shipyards located outside of Europe have applied for inclusion on the list. These yards are expected to receive response during 2017.

The debate concerning scrapping on, especially, beaches in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan has raged among shipowners, yards, authorities, and NGOs throughout 2016. The debate was largely triggered by Maersk's decision to scrap several container ships at a facility in Alang in India.

The intensity of the stems from the fact that yards in Alang and elsewhere rely on beaching, in which vessels are sailed up onto the beach and are dismantled in the tidal zone, a process which has historically resulted in many deaths among workers and polluted the environment.

ECSA recently published numbers showing how little yard capacity the EU-approved facilities represent.

"Approximately 150 container vessels were sent for recycling in 2016, the current EU list would cater for only 16 smaller container vessels, taking into consideration limitation of EU yards in terms of length and vessel draft. And that is just for one type of vessels. We thus strongly encourage the Commission to enlarge the list to non-EU facilities as soon as possible," said ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven earlier in January.

EU ready with list of approved European shipbreakers

Maersk Line to scrap eight vessels in India and China

New fatal accident hits shipbreaking facility in Pakistan

Minister on Maersk out-flagging: "It is not okay"

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