Toxic Trade News / 18 May 2009
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New convention slammed for legitimising beaching of ships
by Keith Wallis, Lloyd's List
18 May 2009 – Human rights, labour and environmental organisations strongly criticised the Hong Kong ship recycling convention immediately after it was approved on Friday, writes Keith Wallis in Hong Kong.

They said the convention was already obsolete because it would “perpetuate hazardous and polluting shipbreaking on the beaches of the world’s poorest countries, while obstructing transitions to safer and greener forms of ship recycling”.

NGO Platform on Shipbreaking director Ingvild Jenssen said: “The new convention on ship recycling adopted today will not stop a single toxic ship from being broken on the beach of a developing country. The convention legitimises the infamous breaking yards of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and actually rewards these exploitive operations while punishing those companies that have invested in safer and cleaner methods.”

The NGO Platform represented 107 environmental and human rights organisations, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth International.

Speaking to delegates after the convention was adopted, Greenpeace representative Rizwana Hasan said: “When the workers and the environment of developing countries desperately needed a life ring, the IMO threw them useless paper.”

Ms Hasan, who is also a member of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the convention failed to uphold the principles of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The IMO convention permitted companies to export toxic end-of-life ships to developing countries without first pre-cleaning them of toxic materials.

She added that the convention also legitimised the beaching of vessels and rejected funding mechanisms, such as a mandatory shipowners’ fund, that could support use of safer and cleaner operations.

Asked by Lloyd’s List for a response to these claims, a visibly irritated Mr Mitropoulos said the convention was an important first step. He said approval of the convention was a good outcome in the circumstances as it has succeeded in putting in place international rules and standards to regulate for the first time a complex and multi-faceted issue.

He added that the alternative was having “no instrument, no platform and no starting point”.

Mr Mitropoulos said the convention was an “international instrument which will be easier and faster to improve as and when appropriate”.

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