‘Naming and Shaming’ Undermines Progress Made on Ship Beaching, Largest Cash Buyer Says

A worker sorts out the engine parts of a decommissioned ship as he dismantles it at the Alang shipyard in Gujarat, India, in this March 27, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files
A worker sorts out the engine parts of a decommissioned ship as he dismantles it at the Alang shipyard in Gujarat, India, in this March 27, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

The world’s largest cash buyer of ships for recycling is calling on the shipping industry to support the recycling businesses that are striving to improve their ship breaking facilities and practices in developing regions, and to not lambast those yards that are making progress.

Dr Anil Sharma, President and CEO of GMS, the world’s largest cash buyer of ships, on Tuesday called on owners and brokers to support sustainable recycling practices and voiced support over the increased investment in certain Southeast Asian yards. Dr Sharma also criticized proponents of total bans on beaching and ‘naming and shaming’ that undermines the progress made on beaching.

“It is just as possible to have environmentally sound and safe beaching practices at some yards in India as it is to have dangerous and hazardous recycling elsewhere,” Dr. Sharma said.

Sharma outlined the advances being made by certain yards in India, where the majority of the world’s ship scrapping is conducted, in making their facilities safer for workers and more sustainable. He also called on the industry to use those yards to support both the progress being made and for the workers who depend ship breaking for work. 
 
In 2015, the first yards in Alang, India were certified as compliant with the pending Hong Kong International Convention (HKC), which aims to ensure that ships that have reached the end of their operational lives do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment. 

Sharma’s call comes on the heels of Maersk Line’s decision to return to certain shipbreaking yards in Alang, India that comply with the company’s standards as well as international protocols, saying that with support the ship recycling yards will have the resources needed to upgrade their facilities and practices. In announcing the decision, Maersk Line said the support is necessary due to the increased number of vessels that will need to be recycled in the future and the limited number of yards in places like Turkey, China, and Europe. 

 “We are seeing significant growth in demand for HKC compliant recycling from ship owners and the yards are reaping the commercial benefits, while sending a trigger to others,” Dr Sharma commented. “As these yards see growth for their services based on good health, safety and environmental practices, the other yards are starting to realize that the world is changing and they have to look to operate in line with HKC compliance, as well as ISO and OSHSAS certification standards in order to boost their business and keep up with changing times.”

Sharma warns however that it is crucial crucial that the yards and the industry as a whole receive support for these facilities, urging shipowners to take advantage of sustainable recycling services and make choosing sustainable yards part of their standard business practices.

Critics however say it would be difficult to make ship breaking yards in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan that still use the practice of beaching, where ships are driven ashore onto beaches and taken apart often by cheap labor without the use of proper equipment, safe and environmentally clean.
 
“One of the most significant challenges facing the ship recycling sector is the level of focus being placed on what is wrong with the current process, rather than what can be done to invest in and improve more yards. We must all appreciate that ship recycling is not only a vital stage in the lifecycle of a vessel, but also a vital market for those that directly and indirectly depend upon it.”