There is an increase in the number of EU shipowners who operate their ships under the flags of countries such as Panama and Palau to avoid strict regulations. Using the gap in the laws, these shipowners send their ships for dismantling in cheap Asian countries, increasing the risks to the environment and human life.
There is a rapid increase in the number of ships going for dismantling from developed countries, especially Europe, to third countries. Avoidance of regulatory sanctions, lower dismantling and occupational health and environmental costs play an important role in the preference of shipowners in this direction.
According to the research of Shanghai Maritime University, European and US shipowners bid farewell to their scrapped ships by hoisting national flags such as Panama, Palau and Comoros. Between 2002 and 2019, the proportion of EU-owned ships registered in low-income countries rose from 46 percent to 96 percent.
Escaped from many legal obligations by operating their ships under the flags of countries such as Panama and Palau, EU shipowners have their dismantling operations done in cheap Asian countries. The number of these shipowners, who put human life and the environment in the background, increased at a record level especially in the EU.
Ships are vital to the global economy as they carry 90 percent of maritime trade. However, when tankers and other large vessels are scrapped, they can cause serious marine pollution. Especially in countries where environmental regulations on ship recycling are more lax, the risks increase even more. Studies indicate that there has been a serious explosion in the number of ships operating under foreign flags in recent years. This practice allows shipowners to dismantle their ships more cheaply in countries with strict environmental regulations.
According to Aysel Yücel from Dünya Newspaper, business owners in wealthy countries, including EU countries, as well as the USA, South Korea and Japan, control the vast majority of the global maritime merchant fleet.
According to research by Shanghai Maritime University, between 2014 and 2018, 80 percent of the ships dismantled were recycled in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where regulations on environment, labor and safety are weak.
Studies show that the use of foreign flags has become very common among business owners in the EU, especially in the last 20 years. The European Commission requires that all ships registered in EU countries be recycled at shipyards approved by the European Commission. However, if the ships have a flag outside the EU, shipowners can avoid these regulations. Between 2002 and 2019, the proportion of EU-owned ships registered in low-income countries rose from 46 percent to 96 percent. Shipowners can avoid some taxes when they operate their ships under cheap foreign flags, and they can operate these ships below the standards.
Between 2002 and 2019, the top flags have shifted from Panama and Liberia to smaller island nations such as Comoros and Palau. Without strict regulations, they can only have these flags for a certain fee.
“IMPOSSIBLE, BLOCKS SHOULD BE ELIMINATED”
Shanghai Maritime University transportation researcher Zheng Wan, who led this study, said that international agreements, including the 1992 Basel Convention to prevent the transfer of hazardous wastes from developed countries to less developed countries, and the 2009 Hong Kong Convention aiming at the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, are essential for preventing environmental injustice He said that unfortunately he was not enough.
John Cheerie, a workplace health researcher at the UK Edinburgh Institute of Occupational Medicine, said: “It is immoral for shipowners in developed countries to circumvent international conventions and potentially expose workers in low-income countries to serious harm. It is important that the international community address this issue and eliminate gaps.” .
98 PERCENT OF SHIPS ARE DISASSEMBLED IN 5 COUNTRIES
A very large part of the ship recycling market share, close to 98 percent, is shared between Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey, respectively. At the end of the ship’s operational life, as much as 95 percent of the ship’s weight can be recycled as steel. However, the components containing the dangerous and very dangerous substances in the remaining 5 percent of the ship’s weight must be separated by special methods during the recycling process and taken under control by giving them on-site or to other facilities.
THE LAWS DO NOT WORK FULLY
The Basel Convention, which entered into force in 1992, was ignored by the stakeholders of international maritime transport, as it contained provisions on hazardous waste and did not develop applicable provisions on scrap ships.
91 percent of European ships avoided the relevant legislation and turned to different solutions. Thereupon, the Hong Kong International Convention, which covers the safe and environmentally compatible recycling of ships, came to the fore. However, in order for the Hong Kong convention to enter into force, the total commercial fleets of the countries that have accepted the convention must constitute at least 40 percent of the world’s commercial transport. The convention was accepted by 16 countries, including Turkey, the Netherlands, Norway and France. The share of the total commercial fleets of the countries that accepted the convention in the world commercial transportation reached 29.42 percent.
The European Council adopted the Ship Recycling Act in 2013 to set up ‘interim’ applicable sanctions, fearing that the entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention would be delayed. According to the law that entered into force in 2018, EU flagged ships can only be dismantled at facilities included in the EU Ship Recycling List. However, there is no obstacle to sending EU-flagged ships to Asian countries through a change of flag. For this reason, it seems that many shipowners tend to send their ships to higher paying facilities.
TURKEY’S SHARE IS INCREASING
Turkey ranks 4th in the world in ship recycling. There are 22 facilities in Aliağa, Turkey’s ship recycling center. Since December 2018, European ships can only be dismantled at facilities included in the European Commission Approved Ship Recycling List. Turkey, together with a shipyard in the USA, was the only country to be included in the list from outside the EU. There are 8 Turkish facilities on the EU list. He announced that 118 ships of various types were recycled in 2020, including EU-flagged ships. The total steel weight of these ships was 855 thousand tons.
Adem Şimşek, Chairman of the Board of Directors of IMEAK DTO Aliağa Branch, emphasized that the facilities in Turkey are among the first in the world in terms of quality, safety and occupational health, and said, “The EU keeps the rules and inspections very strictly in order to include us in the list of approved facilities. Firms wait nearly two years to enter this list. Some EU shipowners are dismantling in Asian countries that are not on the list because they are 20 percent or 40 percent cheaper. This gap must be filled,” he said.
MAY CAUSE THE DEATH OF 5,000 WORKERS IN INDIA
It is emphasized that shipbreaking activities carried out in low-income countries have very serious risks. During these processes, mercury, lead, asbestos, substances that damage the ozone layer, and these substances, which pose deadly health risks and serious environmental pollution, including the release of pesticides, are mixed into the soil and sea. One study predicts that by 2027, around 5,000 workers at ship recycling yards in India will die of mesothelioma, a malignant tumor caused by breathing in asbestos.
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