Monday, 28 May 2007

EU Proposes Ways To Make Dismantling Old Ships Safer for Humans, Environment

May 23, 2007 — By Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union should play a more active role in halting the scrapping of old ships in dangerous and polluting conditions in Asia, a practice likely to worsen as single-hull tankers are phased out in favor of safer double-hulled vessels, the top EU environment official said Wednesday.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the bloc should lead efforts, including drafting international ship recycling laws, as one-third of the world's merchant ships fly EU-member flags and even more are owned by European companies.

"Many ships from Europe and around the world are broken up in South Asia in appalling conditions which lead to hundreds of deaths and injuries each year and serious coastal pollution," Dimas said in a report to the 27 EU governments.

He proposed several steps to improve the situation, including more safety and waste monitoring and increasing "clean ship" dismantling in Europe. He also suggested the shipping industry should pay for the scrapping of old vessels.

Worldwide between 200 and 600 large merchant vessels are taken apart each year for valuable scrap metal. Older ships contain hazardous materials including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and large quantities of oils and oil sludge.

Most of the dismantling is done under unsafe conditions on beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

"There is an urgent need for binding international rules, but until an international solution is found, the EU should tackle the problem caused by the ship dismantling of state-owned ships and warships," Dimas said.

The International Maritime Organization is preparing the first a binding convention on the safe and environmentally sound recycling of old ships.

Dimas invited EU governments and shipping industry to comment on his proposals by Sept. 30.


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