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Recycling of Ship Bills: For Smooth Sailing of a Crucial Sector

Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State Shipping (i/c) , Chemicals & Fertilisers, Government of India.

By Mansukh Mandaviya

Minister of State for Shipping (independent charge), and Chemicals and Fertilizers

A modern ship generally has a lifespan of 25-30 years, before corrosion, metal fatigue or lack of parts render it uneconomical to operate. After having faced rough seas and hundreds of voyages, a ship reaches the end of life. Then, ship recycling begins—it’s a type of ship disposal involving extraction of raw materials. It’s also called ship dismantling or ship breaking. The process allows materials from a ship, especially steel, to be extracted and transformed into various by-products. Fixtures and other equipment on-board the vessels are reused as per the condition and size of the vessel. All types of household items, like antique furniture for drawing/dining rooms, doors, cupboards, fans, washing machines, sanitary fittings, etc, are sold at a premium after removal from ships. So, essentially, rather than breaking up a ship, we clear, clean and recycle. In fact, more than 90% parts are properly treated and utilised, and there is hardly any scrap left behind.

Recycled steel from ships plays an important role in growth and development of a country. In India, recycled steel recovered from scrapping units amounts to 10% of total consumption of steel. For extraction of every 1 tonne of steel from iron ore, 6-10 tonnes of coal is required. Hence, production of steel from recycling of ships, without replenishing natural resources like iron ore and coal, is an eco-friendly method as compared to steel produced by integrated steel plants.

While ship recycling is a sustainable process, there are concerns regarding environmental hazards and impacts. It is labour-intensive, and one of the riskier industries. Health risks due to presence of materials like asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals, particularly in older vessels, pose a danger to workers. Burns from explosions, suffocation, mutilation from falling metal, cancer and other diseases from toxins are regular occurrences in this industry. Therefore, it is paramount that insurance and health risks of yard workers are taken care of on priority.

As per data available, in 2012, nearly 1,250 ocean ships were recycled in the world. In 2013, the world’s total demolished ships amounted to 29,052,000 tonnes, almost 92% of which were recycled in Asia. And nowadays, around 30% of the global ship recycling (250-280 ships) is carried out in India.

In fact, India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan are the global centres for ship recycling. Alang, a small town in Gujarat, is the world’s biggest shipyard, and provides direct employment to 30,000 workers and indirectly to lakhs more. This employment generation is one of the positive aspects of ship recycling, and more so for a country like India.

The Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019, has been brought into force to set global standards for safe and sound and environment-friendly recycling process, and also to provide adequate safe working conditions for workers. It is in consonance with international standards, as laid down in the Hong Kong Convention, 2009, which, when enacted, requires ship recycling facilities to obtain authorisation to operate, and only authorised yards will be permitted to import ships for recycling. Ship-specific Ship Recycling Plans (SRPs) will need to be prepared for incoming vessels, and ships will need to obtain a Ready for Recycling Certificate in accordance with the convention.

Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) is also required to be prepared. The ratification of the Hong Kong Convention by India will ease restrictions on non-EU yards that are currently imposed by the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, enabling green recycling in India. It will open up routes of trade and draw the interest of countries like Norway, Japan, Jordan, the UK and Iran to invest. This will also lead to better employment and job opportunities for Indian workers, raise the brand value of ship recycling yards of India, consolidate India’s position as a market leader, and contribute to the GDP.

The instrument of India’s accession to the Hong Kong Convention was handed over to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Secretary Kitack Lim on November 28, 2019, during the 31st IMO Assembly. This, and the passing of the Bill, are landmark achievements in India’s maritime sector—India now holds the key to unlock the Hong Kong Convention, and such steps will also contribute towards the goal of making India a $5-trillion economy by 2025.

(Courtesy: Financial Express)

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