Photo: Andreas Ragnarsson
Let's agree to disagree here but recycling ships are an inevitable part of the shipping industry. It directly facilitates in maintaining the favourable supply-demand balance of the tonnages and provides a solution for the shipowners to get a reasonable worth for their maritime assets which are no longer feasible to operate as they become technically obsolete or when they are no longer able to be maintained as per statutory compliances.
Today when the world is racing towards achieving reduced carbon emissions, reduction in GHGs across all the industries, we should take cognisance of the fact that to produce 1 ton of Iron, it takes a tailing of around 2.5 - 3 Tons of iron ore, and respectively such proportion exists when we mine out other property enhancing metals such as Manganese, Copper, Molybdenum, Chromium, Nickel, Aluminium, Niobium, Vanadium, Titanium, etc. which are added to iron in making high-quality steel products.
When we obtain these high-quality steel by recycling ships were are actually contributing in the protection of the environment by reducing the mining activities which results in conserving the energy utilized in the mining process and the production process of iron and steel products which ultimately results in reducing the hours the humans spend their time in occupational health risk activity like mining and at the same time reduce the negative impact on the environment and the local flora and fauna.
In my opinion, ship recycling is a very good solution for the shipping industry and the environment but the ship recycling activity in itself gives out a different indication altogether. Unfortunately, stakeholders of the ship recycling industry often forget the importance of ship recycling. Although none of them may be deliberately putting the safety of human lives and protection of the environment at stake, it is definitely their ignorance and their false belief of accepting job hazards as a way of life that effortlessly permits their conscience to allow such activities with their consent.
With the help of IMO's Hong Kong Convention and European Union's Ship Recycling Regulation, it has definitely made a substantial change in the ship recycling activities and has forced the ship recycling yards to up their game and improve safety standards in their facilities. Sooner or later the responsibility of evaluating the compliance of the shipbreaking yards has to be taken by the local administrations or the contracting governments or unions.
As in the case of any business, for the ship recycling facilities, getting approval and recognitions from a classification society or a statutory body is just a means which enables them to carry out their activities. But their businesses only work out when shipowners sell their ships to them!
So who is in a better position to force induce occupational work safety and reduction of pollution on the ship recycling facilities?
Although certifications, recognitions, and permission to operate are very crucial in nature, eventually, for a business setup, they are just expenses incurred on a regular basis. Earnings are only possible when they get a ship in the first place to recycle and sell its by-products in the market.
Now, on the other hand, it is equally necessary for the shipowners to take control and make sure that their waste is treated responsibly. Shipowners take all necessary means to ensure statutory compliance of their vessels while they trade, however when selling their ships for recycling they are always behind getting top dollars for their assets.
With the pressure from governments and certain private bodies, the shipowners are always under watch as to where they sell their ships for recycling. This creates negative repercussions on their image for not doing enough as a part of their corporate social responsibility which many a time leads to litigations and obligation to pay huge fines.
So it is in the best interest of the shipowners to verify the ability of the ship recycling facilities and capabilities of their employees to meet the safe and environmentally sound practices of ship recycling.
Shipowners will be responsible for proper selection and appointment third-party evaluators and auditors to evaluate the ship recycling facilities and their employees Such auditors should have sound technical knowledge of ships and their operations, have at least implemented the requirements of ISO 17020 standards in their organisations with a practicing knowledge about Hong Kong Convention and who are practicing lead auditors of ISO management system standards of 9001, 14001 & 45001 for the ship recycling facilities.
When associations are made between shipowner/s and ship recycling facilities or their consortiums for sending their ships for the final treatment, it makes way for working possibilities such as vendor development programs or service supplier evaluations of sorts.
Such kind of synergy will create a motivated environment for the shipowners and ship recyclers to understand the needs of each other's interested parties and work out the best in their interests and at the same time ensure occupational safety for workers and reduce pollution of the environment.
About the author: Divakar P. Amin is the founder and Director of DPA Maritime (OPC) Private Limited, which provides auditing and evaluating services for ship recycling facilities, shipboard audits, etc. He is a gold medallist awardee in PGD in Shipping Management from Narottam Morarjee Institute of Shipping and a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Mumbai University.
He was working for ClassNK since 2009 as a ship surveyor, marine management systems auditor, MLC inspector, lead auditor for ISO 9001, 14001 & 18001, member of the ship recycling team as HKC lead auditor and independent verifying inspector for EUSRR.
Source: DPA Maritime