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EU ship recycling debate raises more questions

Europe – Premature implementation of the EU’€™s draft regulation regarding the Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling could harm the competitiveness of European shipping and ports, several EU environment ministers pointed out during the latest debate on the topic.

All EU member states support the plans to ensure the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships in principle, yet they cannot agree on the detail. Germany, Spain and Sweden, for instance, demand that the proposed regulation should be enforced by a specific date, while France urges implementation within two years of publication. Representatives from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland prefer yet another method ‘€“ applying the regulation as soon as the convention, adopted in 2009, enters into force.

In spite of the disagreement, ministers back the notion that further extending the Hong Kong Convention to include non-EU vessels is likely to help address the risk of the ships in question changing their flags prior to recycling. Providing a financial incentive to retain a member state’€™s flag before the vessel is sent for recycling is also seen as a potential way of alleviating the problem.

The meeting in Luxembourg also revealed that there is no consensus as yet on which of the requirements that fall outside the Hong Kong Convention’€™s current terms of reference should be included. These include the establishment of a list of recycling facilities in developing countries that will be allowed to take in EU-flagged ships.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik was discouraged that member states had chosen to substantially weaken the penalties for non-compliance that he suggested earlier this year. As things stood, Mr Potočnik said the text only stated that ships involved in illegal activities may be warned, fined, detained, dismissed or, at best, excluded from EU ports.

Responding to the outcome of the meeting, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform says it was ‘€˜applauding progressive EU governments’€™ ‘€“ among them Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands ‘€“ for supporting the existing ban on the export of end-of-life ships containing hazardous wastes to developing countries.

‘€˜Currently, the combined capacity of ship recycling facilities located in OECD countries would be enough to properly recycle most EU-flagged and EU-owned ships. Instead of scrapping the EU ban on hazardous wastes exports to developing countries, the EU should promote green ship recycling at home,’€™ asserted NGO Executive Director Patrizia Heidegger.

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