The Council has started to discuss the file in the Working Party on Environment.
The Commission has on 23 March 2012 adopted a proposal for a regulation on ship recycling, and for a Council decision regarding ratification of the Hong Kong Convention. The documents are available as follows:
The Council and the European Parliament are now discussing the Commission proposal.
Worldwide, around 1000 large end-of-life ships are broken up and recycled every year, as their steel, other scrap metal and equipment constitute valuable raw materials. Most of this ship dismantling takes place in South Asia, often on tidal beaches and under dangerous conditions. While the industry provides thousands of jobs for migrant workers, a lack of environmental protection and safety measures leads to high accident rates, health risks and extensive pollution of coastal areas. Older ships contain many hazardous materials, including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributyl tin and large quantities of oils and oil sludge.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said at the occasion of the Commission proposal: "Although the ship recycling sector has improved its practices, many facilities continue to operate under conditions that are dangerous and damaging. This proposal aims to ensure that our old ships are recycled in a way that respects the health of workers as well as the environment. It is a clear signal to invest urgently in upgrading recycling facilities.” Commissioner Potočnik presented the regulation jointly with Vice President Siim Kallas, Commissioner for Transport.
The new rules, which will take the form of a Regulation, propose a system of survey, certification and authorisation for large commercial seagoing vessels that fly the flag of an EU Member State, covering their whole life cycle from construction to operation and recycling.
The new system builds upon the Hong Kong Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, which was adopted in 2009. The proposal aims to implement the Convention quickly, without waiting for its ratification and entry into force, a process which can still take several years. To speed up the formal entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention, the Commission also presented on 23 March 2012 a draft decision requiring Member States to ratify the Hong Kong Convention.
Under the new system, European ships will have to draw up an inventory of the hazardous materials present on board, and apply for an inventory certificate. The amount of hazardous waste on board (including in cargo residues, fuel oil, etc.) must be reduced before the ship is delivered to a recycling facility.
Ship recycling facilities will have to meet a set of environmental and safety requirements in order to be included on a list of authorised facilities, which can be situated world wide. European ships will be allowed to be recycled only in facilities on that list. Some of the requirements to be met by the ship recycling facilities are stricter than those foreseen by the Hong Kong Convention. This will ensure better traceability for European ships, and will guarantee that the waste resulting from dismantling (and any hazardous materials it contains) is managed in an environmentally sound way.
To ensure compliance, the proposal requires ship owners to report to national authorities when they intend to send a ship for recycling. By comparing the list of ships for which they have issued an inventory certificate with the list of ships which have been recycled in authorized facilities, authorities will be able to spot illegal recycling more easily. The sanctions proposed in the Regulation will also be more specific and precise than provided for in the Hong Kong Convention.