GMS Challenges European Commission on Ship Breaking

Shipbreaking at Alang, India.
Shipbreaking at Alang, India.

Global Marketing Systems, Inc (GMS), the world’s largest cash buyer of ships for recycling, has challenged the European Commission’s intention to ban the practice of beaching by inviting the Commission and top level shipping industry stakeholders to India to witness the ship recycling process first hand.

Addressing a high-level industry conference in London, Dr Nikos Mikelis, non-executive Director of GMS, said ship recycling yards were improving in Southeast Asia, adding that the best way to see the improvements was to visit the yards in person.

Dr Mikelis warned however that while progress was being made in Indian yards, it could “come to an abrupt end through the ill-advised efforts to ban ship recycling by beaching through the Unit of Waste Management of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment.”

“We can only hope that the administrations of right-thinking European States will avert the tragic mistake that has been brewing in Brussels through the regulator’s lack of understanding on international shipping and ship recycling,” said Dr. Mikelis.

He added: “Progress could also slowly come to a halt if yard owners who are investing in improvements do not realize any financial gain through the custom of responsible ship owners seeking safe and clean recycling in the period prior to the entry into force of international requirements. As entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention is practically subject to accession by India, we have a classic ‘chicken and egg’ situation if there is no financial motivation to the yards.”

Dr Mikelis said the Corporate Social Responsibility policy of a responsible ship owner who truly cares that ship recycling standards are sustainable across the industry and not only within his company “must encourage, through his custom, yards which have invested in safety and environmental protection, regardless of whether these yards are located in South Asia or elsewhere”.

GMS also used the conference to call on Panama and the Marshall Islands to accede¬†to the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in order to satisfy calls by the International Chamber of Shipping and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) for a level playing field in global recycling. Ratification by these two large flags would speed up entry into force of the Convention, GMS said in a statement.

GMS said it would be willing to invite officials from EU Member States; experts on hazardous materials; representatives of ship owners or ship owner associations; the IMO Secretariat and the European Commission to see the improvements that have taken place in Indian recycling yards. GMS would then request the observers to compile a report of their findings.