Delivered by Jim Puckett
May 13, Hong Kong, International Conference on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships
Thank you Mr. Chairman and good morning to you all. With this submission Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth International submits to the Conference what has been obvious to the vast majority of ship recycling experts and waste management authorities. That is, that the “beaching method” whereby ships are run aground on ocean beaches for cutting and breaking apart in the intertidal zone can never be accomplished in a manner which is environmentally sound or protective of human health. Careful analysis of the intrinsic characteristics of beaching operations are conclusive that no amount of prescriptive improvements or protections can remedy the four fatal characteristics of intertidal beaching operations:
1. First there is the impossibility of containing pollutants on a tidal beach where hulls of ships are often breached accidentally or by cutting, or toxic paints erode or are abraded sending persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and oils onto the beach and into the seawater;
2. Second, due to a shifting and soft wet tidal sand surface, there is the impossibility of rapidly bringing emergency response equipment, including fire-fighting equipment and vehicles, ambulances and cranes along side the ship, to assist or remove persons hurt inside the hull;
3. Third, the impossibility of allowing cranes to work alongside to lift heavy cut sections of a ship and thereby preventing heavy cut sections from being subject to gravity, shifting or falling directly into workers or into the marine environment; and
4. Finally, there is the absolute incompatibility of conducting hazardous waste management operations (which is what they are as long as ships contain hazardous wastes, in the ecologically delicate and vital coastal zone.
These fatal flaws of the beaching method inevitably will result in causing avoidable death and pollution and thus make a mockery of the application of Regulation 19 of this Convention. No amount of band-aid guidelines and criteria can cure the malignancy inherent in beaching operations. To ask Parties to prevent adverse effects to human health and the environment from massive toxic ships on an intertidal beach already makes the fulfillment of this objective impossible. However the worst outcome is that by not drawing a clear line at the outset, this fatally flawed method will be legitimized, millions of dollars will be thrown into trying to mitigate the inherently inappropriate and dangerous working platform and the IMO will have succeeded in perpetuating death and pollution for many years to come.
Mr. Chairman, today we have brought to this important meeting and which will be made available to you all as an Information Document, a Statement of Concern, signed by the leaders of 107 civil society organizations in over 30 countries. The list includes 4 winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award including Rizwana Hasan who is with us today. Today we do not represent simply Greenpeace International, and Friends of the Earth, nor the greater NGO Platform on Shipbreaking alone. Today, we are bringing you the voice of the vast body of civil society environmental, development human rights, and labor organizations that have come together unanimously to sign a statement condemning this Convention as an historical failure, if it cannot muster the political courage to cease the scandalous pretense that scrapping aged ships containing hazardous wastes and oils on ocean beaches in the intertidal zone might be somehow a viable way to achieve the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships.
The IMO member states cannot continue to put their head in the sand and say that they will be “method neutral” as such a statement is “science deficient”. And indeed such a statement is morally deficient -- for to be “method neutral” is to be neutral on actual matters of life and death, for it is on the beaches of South Asia that approximately 50 workers per year are killed. How many of these deaths could have been prevented were proper equipment such as cranes, fire fighting vehicles, and ambulances been made accessible to the fallen workers? The fact that countries such as Norway, member States of the EU, the United States, and Japan can, within this august body pretend that this method is viable is in fact the height of hypocrisy, as such operations would be banned in those countries in an instant for violations of coastal zone management laws, occupational safety and health laws, and hazardous waste management laws.
With this submission we as the civil society stakeholder voice in these proceedings call for a prohibition on the beaching method, by amending Article 19 to include the following text:
Ship Recycling Facilities authorized by a Party shall establish and utilize procedures to:
New Paragraph One: ensure that ship recycling operations taking place on intertidal flats, or ocean beaches or other working platforms which prevent: rapid access to ships by emergency equipment; the ability to utilize cranes and lifting equipment at all times alongside vessels; and the possibility of full containment of pollutants during all cutting and stripping operations, are prohibited;
Additionally, we are proposing that a conference resolution on an implementation mechanism be agreed upon in Hong Kong, which shall include provisions for technical assistance to countries where the beaching method is used with an aim to directing funds toward phasing-out this breaking method and replacing it with dockside, slip, or dry dock platforms as a matter of urgency and global responsibility.
Finally, we are calling on Conference delegations to develop a Conference Resolution calling for the creation of such a fund for pre-cleaning during the useful life of a ship and prior to its final voyage and for safe recycling – applying established the principles of producer responsibility, polluter pays, and cost internalization.
We as civil society, believe that if the distinguished delegates take a moment to recall who and what this Convention is really for, the beleaguered marine environment and disempowered and desperate workers, they will then find the courage to take the vital steps we have proposed. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
International Conference on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, Hong Kong, China, 11-15 May 2009
A Diplomatic Conference to adopt an international convention on the recycling of ships was opened in Hong Kong, China, by the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, on Monday (11 May 2009). The convention, the first ever to address ship recycling issues, is aimed at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Mitropoulos paid tribute to the contribution to the work of IMO made by Asia - "a region the leadership role of which in shipbuilding, shipowning, ship manning and ship recycling is recognized and duly appreciated worldwide". He told delegates that the conference represented the culmination of intense endeavours over several years to tackle the issue of ship recycling in a manner that will embrace the subject both from its ship-based aspects and those relating to facilities ashore.
"For countries that are active in the disposal of end-of-life ships, and for others aspiring to invest in this industry, ship recycling provides opportunities for employment and an economic and trading venture for tens of thousands of people, particularly in communities that are not among the wealthiest in the world. It also constitutes an activity that, by its very nature, is also regarded as environmentally beneficial - not to mention the wider re-use of most of a ship's fabric, materials, machinery, equipment and fittings. The fact that everything that constitutes a ship today may, tomorrow, pass on for use in the construction and ancillary industries; in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors; in small factories; in hospitals and other emergency centres; in hotels and households, displays another dimension of the activity that will occupy our minds this week. This makes it imperative that we intensify our efforts to ensure the success of the Conference, thus also ensuring that the convention we have come here to adopt, on the one hand lifts the safety and environmental levels of ships, recycling facilities and those who are employed on both and, on the other, does not interfere inadvertently with the vital process of constant renewal, thus creating an all-inclusive regulatory regime of the kind that has been among the hallmarks of IMO," he said.
The Conference was also addressed by Mr. Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and the President of the Conference, Mr. Xu Zuyuan, Vice-Minister for Transport of the People's Republic of China.
The five-day Conference, being held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), is taking place under the auspices of IMO, the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for safety and security at sea and prevention of marine pollution from ships, and is being organized with the support of the Government of China and the Marine Department of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Conference is the first such event that IMO has ever held in Asia and is being attended by delegations from some 66 IMO Member States and two Associate Members.
The following were elected as officers of the Conference:
His Excellency Mr. Xu Zuyuan, Vice-Minister for Transport, People's Republic of China
The Honourable Mr. Binyah Kesselly, Commissioner, Bureau of Maritime Affairs, Liberia
Her Excellency Ms. Liliana Fernández Puentes, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Panama to IMO
Captain Suat Hayri AKA, Deputy Undersecretary for Transport, Turkey
Chairman, Committee of the Whole
Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou (Cyprus), Chairman of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)
Chairman, Drafting Committee
Mr. Charles Darr, Office of Maritime and International Law, United States Coast Guard, United States.
Other officers will be elected as the Conference progresses.
Source: IMO Briefing 20, 12 May 2009
Hong Kong, China. May 11, 2009. Human rights, labour and environmental organizations warned today that the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO), meeting this week to adopt a new convention on ship recycling, is poised to take a major step backwards from existing international environmental law. In a global “Statement of Concern” signed by over 100 organizations in over 30 countries, civil society leaders today called the draft IMO convention on ship recycling a “legal shipwreck” and called upon IMO delegates to ban the deadly “beaching” method of shipbreaking.
“The IMO draft Convention as it stands now is a legal shipwreck waiting to happen,” said Ingvild Jenssen, director of the NGO Platform of Shipbreaking. “It will not prevent a single toxic ship from being exported and dumped on the beaches of India, Bangladesh or Pakistan or any other developing country. We are sending out an SOS to the nations of the world to change their course and at the very least condemn the unsustainable and exploitive toxic beach breaking operations.”
80 percent of the global end-of-life ships are broken in Bangladesh and India on tidal beaches whose soft sands cannot support crucial safety measures such as heavy lifting or emergency response equipment and which allow pollution to seep directly into the delicate coastal zone environment. No country in the developed world allows ships to be broken on their beaches. While shipbreaking can be done in a safe and clean way with proper technologies and infrastructure, and enforced regulations, most ship-owners choose to sell their ships for significantly greater profit to substandard yards operating in countries without adequate resources to provide safeguards and infrastructure to manage the dangerous business. On the South Asian shipbreaking beaches, vulnerable migrant workers, many of them children, break apart massive and toxic ships by hand, often without shoes, gloves, hard hats or masks to protect their lungs from asbestos, and poison fumes. The International Labour Organization (ILO) considers shipbreaking on beaches to be among the world's most dangerous jobs.
End-of-life ships, scrapped primarily for their valuable steel, are considered hazardous waste under international law, because of the hazardous substances they contain, notably asbestos, oily wastes, PCBs and toxic paints.
The Basel Convention, a UN treaty controlling such hazardous wastes with 170 member countries, have decided to prohibit the export of all hazardous wastes to developing countries, and they have adopted shipbreaking guidelines calling for a phase-out of the use of beaches to scrap ships. But the IMO draft Convention is at odds with, and undermines the environmental protections provided by the Basel Convention, meaning that one United Nations body is moving to squarely act against another.
“ Existing international law makes it illegal to export toxic waste to developing countries, to disproportionately burden the poor with pollution,” said Rizwana Hasan director of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and this year’s winner of the international Goldman Environmental Prize for her work to halt toxic ship exports to Bangladesh. “Instead of throwing a life-ring to big shipping interests, the IMO still has a chance to rescue the workers and the environment, and fulfill its original mandate, by keeping toxic ships off our ocean beaches. We are calling on China, as host country to provide the leadership to persuade the rest of Asia and the IMO to abide by the Basel Convention and to prevent toxic ships from being sailed to Asia and dumped on our continent’s ocean beaches.”
LINKS and NOTES
 The European Union has implemented the Basel Ban Amendment and prohibits the export of toxic end-of-life European flagged ships in developing, non-OECD countries and is in the process of developing EU regulations specific to ship recycling. A EU Parliament resolution also condemned the breaking of ships on beaches this year.
 Two months ago the High Court of Bangladesh, following a legal challenge by BELA, declared all shipbreaking operations in Bangladesh to be illegal, and called for all incoming ships to be pre-cleaned of toxic materials prior to import.
 China has ratified the Basel Ban Amendment banning the export of toxic wastes from developed to developing countries and operates “non-beaching” dockside ship dismantling operations.
· Civil Society Statement of Concern www.shipbreaking.com/dmdocuments/other/statement_of_concern_imo.pdf
· “Off the Beach” Pamphlet www.shipbreakingplatform.com/dmdocuments/reports/offthebeach.pdf
· Platform Submission to Convention www.shipbreakingplatform.com/dmdocuments/submissions/SR-CONF-14.pdf
· Briefing Paper for IMO Convention www.shipbreakingplatform.com/dmdocuments/other/BP05_May_2009.pdf
· Draft IMO Convention www.ban.org/Library/MEPC_58-23.pdf
· Information on Goldman Environmental Prize http://www.goldmanprize.org/
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