Toxic Trade News / 12 May 2009
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Safety urged in ship recycling
by Timothy Chui, The Standard (Hong Kong)
12 May 2009 – The International Maritime Organization is scrambling to pass a legally binding covenant on ship recycling before an expected surge in decommissioned vessels driven by the financial crisis.

About 500 delegates from 100 nations are attending a five-day conference at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in an attempt to hammer out details on worker and environmental safety during shipbreaking and recycling activities.

Speaking at the launch of the convention yesterday, IMO secretary- general Efthimios Mitropoulos said the timely passing of the covenant is needed because of the widely expected ship recycling boom between the adoption of the pact and its actual enforcement.

Citing the plunge in the global international shipping price tracker, the Baltic Dry Index - from 11,000 points in May 2008, to just over 660 in December - Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said the economic crisis has led to ship orders being canceled and ships laid up.

He said market conditions have led to a resurgence in recycling, with hundreds of ships designed to last for up to 30 years ending service annually, making recycling a more environmentally friendly way to alleviate the supply-demand imbalances.

The meeting will focus on details of a draft passed in October last year, which builds on 2005 industry guidelines, the Basel Convention that governs the transfer of hazardous waste to developing countries, and recommendations by an industry working group and the International Labour Organization.

The draft covers aspects of ship construction, operation and preparation for recycling, worker safety and environmental consideration in recycling facilities and enforcement mechanisms, along with survey certification, inspection and reporting requirements.

Yesterday's launch attracted about two dozen gong-beating protesters, clad in white, from the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking.

Bearing a banner reading "Danger IMO Legalizing Shipbreaking Beaches of Death," and a symbolic corpse of a ship recycling worker, the protesters are calling for a ban on ship beaching before recycling.

Group director Ingvild Jenssen said the convention would not prevent a single toxic ship from being dumped on the beaches of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or any other developing nation.

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