ASA urges ratification of Hong Kong Convention in face of EU alternative

Asia Shipowners Association (ASA)

The Asian Shipowners Association is calling for ratification of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, it has emerged from a meeting held on May 20 in Shanghai.

The International Maritime Organization adopted the Hong Kong Convention in 2009, but seven years down the line only a few countries have ratified it, none of which belong to the eight-member ASA.

The call to action comes as the European Union’s regional version of the Convention; the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (applying to EU flagged ships) threatens to introduce a levy on all vessels entering EU ports from 2018.

One international law sufficient

The secretary general of the National Association of Chinese Shipowners, Bob Hsu was backed by ASA members when he declared that only one international policy was required and that the IMO-backed Hong Kong Convention was it.

The EU Regulation, introduced in 2013, incorporates the Hong Kong Convention with one important difference. The Hong Kong Convention demands that a ship when being recycled poses no risk to human health and safety or to the environment, but accepts that beach scrapping may be acceptable as long as the technical and procedural criteria can be followed. The EU Regulation on the other hand rejects beaching outright.

Slow progress

Thus far just two beaching facilities have met the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention, India’s Kalthia Shipbreaking and Priya Blue Industries. Both facilities were certified by Japanese classification society ClassNK in October 2015, after an appraisal that took two and a half years. A further two shipbreakers – Leela Ship Recycling Pvt Ltd and the Shree Ram Group are said to be still undergoing technical appraisal.

Just why Asian countries have not signed up for the Hong Kong Convention has not been made clear particularly when they include the most important ship recycling nations of India, Pakistan and China.

The ASA’s executive officer Serena Tan says that India has offered assurances that ratification of the Convention is under consideration but has not offered a timeline for its achievement. Meanwhile, she says, plans are being made by ASA to send a delegation to China to try to discover what obstacle there may be and hopefully get the process moving.

Why ratification is a distant prospect

The most likely reason for the collective dragging of feet by Asian nations is the current dire straits that shipping is currently going through. Ship scrapping is top of the list in easing the dire overcapacity in the sector. In 2015 768 ships or 20.4m GT were dismantled worldwide. Of that number 469 vessels or 15m GT were beached.

In 2016 the level of scrapping is expected to reach record levels. In the first quarter of this year 145 bulk carriers or 12m Gt were dismantled. To be forced to follow the Convention requirements at this stage, with so few beaching facilities compliant, would impose severe and unwelcome restrictions on a process that has rarely been more urgent.

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