The tidal wave of new environmental legislation continues into the new year as the European ship recycling regulation comes into force.
The ship recycling regulation — like the Hong Kong ship recycling convention it emulates — comes amid a range of regulations targeting ships emissions, discharges and coatings but is one of the few that has a direct impact on shore-based businesses and on shipowners.
In themselves, the regulations appear innocuous enough. A concerted lobbying effort by the shipping community in Brussels during 2013 softened some aspects of the regulations thought to be too excessive.
Not all the European ship recycling regulation comes into force on January 1, 2014.
Some parts are applicable after December 31, 2014, that are more in relation to the requirements of recycling facilities, either in the European community or outside it, to be included in the European list of approved facilities.
Most of the regulation, specifically those parts relating to hazardous materials inventories and shipboard certificates, come into force between December 31, 2015-December 2018, depending on when the combined maximum annual recycling output of approved facilities is 2.5m light displacement tonnes.
Although it does not have much immediate impact on European owners, the latest piece of European regulation goes a long way towards strengthening the Hong Kong Convention of the International Maritime Organization on ship recycling.
The European Union has agreed the regulations in a manner likely to bring the EU flags as a group of signatories to the IMO convention, to come into force two years after its criteria is met.
The IMO convention needs to be ratified by at least 15 member states and the total fleet of signatories should represent 40% of the gross tonnage of the world fleet.
Additionally, as an aim to getting the main Asian ship recycling nations to ratify, the requirement is that the ratifying states should also have a combined ship recycling volume during the preceding 10 years not less than 3% of the gross tonnage of the combined merchant shipping of the same states.
Although experts do not expect the European regulations to have much immediate impact on how vessels can be scrapped, they warn shipowners to be aware of the immediate paperwork requirements and of the time it will take to prepare hazardous-material lists.
One factor of concern with the EU regulation was whether the regulations would be strong enough to ban beaching vessels, a common practice in some shipbreaking sites in India and Bangladesh, which offers competitive pricing against rival bases that use drydocks.
Campaigners have highlighted beaching as an example of unethical ship recycling practice, producing videos that show oils leaking into sea and sand and inadequately prepared workers who lack rudimentary safety equipment.
Recycling groups counter that these issues are being dealt with. Nevertheless, a lot of investment will be needed to bring facilities to a standard that meets the meaning of the convention or the regulation.
Groups such as the European Community Shipowners Association called for the European rules not to specify a ban on beaching, hoping not to alienate the many such facilities so that their representative IMO member states would support the IMO convention and therefore ratify it.
The wording of the EU regulation states that an approved facility has to operate from a built structure and have a detailed map, including boundaries.
Ecsa was pleased when the European Parliament dismissed proposals for a fee to be paid by ships calling at European ports to create a ship recycling fund to encourage green recycling.
The Parliament raconteur responsible for the regulation said the investment per vessel would be very small and would help to pay the market difference between the standard prices seen by beaching facilities and approved green ones. However, the shipping and ports communities rallied against it.
The issue has not been dropped, however, and the European Commission has now been tasked with looking at the funding issue to determining whether a solution can be found.
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