Turkey, one of the five major ship recycling countries in the world, has become the seventh nation to ratify the International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. Adopted in 2009, the Hong Kong Convention aims to ensure the safe and environmentally sustainable recycling of retired ships.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which helped develop the text, the convention addresses all issues around ship recycling, such as concerns about work and environmental conditions at ship recycling facilities and the potential environmentally hazardous substances in retired ships.
“It is a significant step forward that Turkey, as a major ship recycling country, has ratified the Hong Kong Convention,” says Kan Matsuzaki, shipbuilding director for IndustriALL, which represents trade unions in the shipbreaking sector. “The convention is a minimum and a first step for all stakeholders to take responsibility to provide safe, healthy, clean and sustainable jobs.”
Belgium, Congo, Denmark, France, Norway and Panama are among the nations to adopt the treaty, but it requires ratification by 15 states, or 40 percent of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage, to go into law.
China, India and Pakistan, which account for more than 90 percent of all ship recycling by tonnage, have yet to adopt agree to the convention.
“We can’t wait any longer," Matsuzaki says. "There are too many deaths and too many workers exposed to hazardous conditions in the shipbreaking industry."
The Hong Kong Convention provides regulation for the design, construction and preparation of ships to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling without compromising the safety and operational efficiency of ships; the operation of ship recycling facilities; and the establishment of an enforcement mechanism for ship recycling, incorporating certification and reporting requirements.
The guidelines on ship recycling also introduce the concept of a "Green Passport" for ships. Under the convention, ships sent to scrapping facilities are required to carry an inventory of hazardous materials. Ship recycling yards are also required to provide a Ship Recycling Plan, specifying how each ship will be recycled, including proper safety training.
IMO is working on a project to enhance safe and environmentally sound ship recycling in Bangladesh, one of the top five ship recycling countries. The 19-month project is funded under a $1.1 million agreement with the government of Norway.
The project focuses on building building capacity within Bangladesh to develop a legal, policy and institutional reform "road map" towards accession to the Hong Kong Convention, and will train a variety of stakeholders within a well-functioning training system.
The project includes preliminary designs for infrastructure, including facilities for treatment, storage and disposing of hazardous wastes generated from recycling operations.