Stricter environmental regulations in the Global North have caused a gradual increase in the cost of hazardous waste management and disposal. As a result, the trade of toxic wastes, including end-of-life ships, to developing countries where legislation is weaker, or not properly enforced, has increased. Whilst international and regional legal instruments aimed at better regulating the transboundary movement and the management of hazardous wastes have been developed, it remains far too easy for ship owners to circumvent these laws.
In 1989 the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) adopted the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal following numerous hazardous waste trafficking scandals. The Basel Convention, which entered into force in 1992, regulates the international trade of hazardous wastes and is relevant for ship dismantling as a ship usually contains hazardous materials in its structure. The Basel Convention also published “Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial Dismantling of End-of-life-ships” in 2002.
The International Labour Organisation, a UN agency, has called shipbreaking one of “the most dangerous occupations” in the world. In March 2004, the ILO unanimously endorsed at its 289th session a set of criteria to govern the disposal of ships. The criteria are outlined in “Safety and Health in Shipbreaking: Guidelines for Asian Countries and Turkey”. These Guidelines are directed at those who have responsibility for occupational safety and health in shipbreaking operations, including employers and national authorities.
HONG KONG CONVENTION
In May 2009, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted the Hong Kong Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Hong Kong Convention is not expected to enter into force before many years as to date only eight countries have ratified it. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics, European policy makers, more than 100 civil society organisations and developing countries have denounced the Hong Kong Convention for setting a standard that rubberstamps current dirty and dangerous practices.
EUROPEAN UNION WASTE SHIPMENT REGULATION
The European Union Waste Shipment Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 transposes the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment into European Union law. It bans all exports of hazardous waste to non-OECD countries and all exports of waste for disposal outside the EU/EFTA.
EUROPEAN UNION SHIP RECYCLING REGULATION
The European Union Ship Recycling Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 entered into force on 30 December 2013. Most of its provisions are applicable as of 31 December 2018. The Regulation sets requirements for ship recycling activities, and includes environmental protection and occupational health and safety standards that go beyond the Hong Kong Convention. The European Union maintains a list of approved facilities globally and EU-flagged commercial vessels must be recycled in a facility that is on the EU List.