Ship recycling: key step for improved occupational safety and environmental protection

Germany’s Bundestag passes Act ratifying the Hong Kong Convention

The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) endorses the important motion tabled by Germany’s lower house of parliament on the Act ratifying the Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling.

By ratifying the Hong Kong Convention, Germany – one of the world’s biggest merchant navy nations – has set a key signal for a thorough improvement in working and environmental conditions when scrapping ships on international recycling shipyards. 

“The Convention is the only real influence we have to push for safer working conditions for people working at recycling locations as well as for environmental protection,” said Ralf Nagel, Chief Executive Officer of the German Shipowners’ Association. 

Close to 80% of all ships given clearance for scrapping are recycled in Asia today; of these, 35% are handled in India. In particular, this piece of legislation supports shipyards in southern Asia that can already deliver proof of compliance with the high standards of the Hong Kong Convention today. Most Indian shipyards meet today’s strict parameters laid down in the Hong Kong Convention. “We are very hopeful that the ratification by Germany will also support the ratification process in other states, particularly in India,” added Nagel. In addition, Nagel called for the EU Commission to add the shipyards outside Europe that are already working in conformity with the new standards to the list of shipyards approved for ships sailing under EU flags. “In Europe itself, the necessary ship recycling capacities ceased to exist years ago and will not be available in the foreseeable future either,” noted Nagel. An independent European initiative would endanger the objective of enabling the Hong Kong Convention to specifically improve conditions for people and the environment in the largest recycling states, said Nagel, addressing Brussels. 


About the Hong Kong Convention
In May 2009, 67 member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted legislation in favour of environmentally friendly recycling of ships and improved working conditions in recycling shipyards. The “Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009” (HKC) will take effect after two years once the following criteria have been met: 15 states will need to ratify them, accounting for over 40% of the total world trade tonnage. In addition, recycling capacities of the signatory states (on average over the past ten years) may not amount to less than 3% of the total world trade tonnage. These prerequisites would be met if the recycling states of China and India ratified the Hong Kong Convention. The centrepiece of the ship recycling convention is the preparation of a list of hazardous substances in which all toxic matter such as asbestos, PCB, ozone-depleting gases and ship hull paints containing TBT would need to be recorded. The Convention also contains provisions for the certification and qualitative selection of suitable recycling shipyards. It applies to newbuilds as well as ships in service with over 500 GT (gross tonnage). This means that the scope of application of the Convention extends to include 50,000 vessels. 


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