European Commission proposes tougher ship recycling laws

The European Commission has proposed tougher laws on ship recycling in a bid to improve the management of hazardous materials and reduce environment pollution.

According to the commission, more than 1000 large commercial European ships are recycled for their scrap metal every year, but many of these end up in poorly-equipped facilities in South Asia.

It warns that many of these facilities lack the environmental protection and safety measures needed to manage the hazardous materials, such as asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributyl tin and oil sludge contained in end-of-life ships.

As a result, the new rules, which will take the form of a regulation, aim to ensure that Europe’s large commercial ships, such as tankers and container vessels are recycled in facilities that have stricter regulations to help reduce the environmental impact.

As part of the changes a system of survey certification and authorisation for EU sea vessels has also been proposed, in a bid to trace the vessel’s whole life cycle from construction to operation and recycling.

Environment commissioner Janez Potočnik, said: “Although the ship recycling sector has improved its practices, many facilities continue to operate under conditions that are dangerous and damaging.

“This proposal aims to ensure that our old ships are recycled in a way that respects the health of workers as well as the environment. It is a clear signal to invest urgently in upgrading recycling facilities.”

The new system intends to build on rules set by the Hong Kong Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, which was adopted in 2009. It is however expected to be more “specific and precise”.

Carys Matthews

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