Platform News – The European Union guides the shipping industry towards safe and clean recycling

Published in January 03rd, 2019

The European Union Ship Recycling Regulation is now fully applicable. From 31 December 2018, EU-flagged commercial vessels above 500 GT must be recycled in safe and environmentally sound ship recycling facilities that are included on the European List of approved ship recycling facilities. 

"Beyond legal obligations, any shipping company, regardless of the flag it its fleet, can opt for a facility on the EU List as way of proving its commitment to sustainable ship recycling."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

To be included in the European List, ship recycling facilities, irrespective of their location, have to comply with a number of safety and environmental requirements. In fact, these are standards under which European yards have had to operate for many years. The beaching method is not allowed, and requirements related to downstream toxic waste management as well as labour rights are included. Facilities operating in the EU are approved by their national authorities for listing, whilst the European Commission assesses applications received from the ship recycling facilities located in third countries. 


European shipping companies account today for about one third of the end-of-life tonnage beached in in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. 

"For too long, EU vessels have been dismantled in poor environmental and social conditions. This is not acceptable any longer. The full entry into force of the EU Regulation on ship recycling is a milestone for this sector, as it provides for the first time clear and specific rules on how EU-flagged vessels should be recycled. Like other recycling activities, ship recycling can be carried out sustainably, in a way which is good for workers, the environment and the economy. We count on all actors in the sector to work constructively with us to make it happen."
Karmenu Vella - Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries - European Commission

Faced with also a mounting demand from investors to avoid using beaching yards, ship owners claim that the EU List must be expanded to include yards that have obtained a so-called Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention. 76 beaching yards in Alang have already obtained such Statements from consultants hired by the facilities themselves: a box-ticking exercise strongly denounced as green-washing by NGOs.

"EU-listing is the only guarantee that a yard has been independently certified and audited up against an acceptable standard. It is obvious that the EU cannot accept beaching - that would amount to setting a double standard where ignoring basic health, safety and environmental protection standards are tolerated as competitive advantages."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

In a recent report, the Platform and T&E provide data to show that there currently is enough capacity at the 26 yards on the EU List to handle the recycling of EU flagged ships. However, it is very simple for ship owners to swap their EU flag to that of an non-EU flag at end-of-life. Comoros, St Kitts and Nevis and Palau are particularly popular flags of convenience for vessels that are sold to beaching yards. 

"The EU List is an important market differentiator for yards that have already invested in proper occupational safety and environmental standards. To ensure that shipping companies are directed towards these sites, and do not simply flag-out to circumvent the new law, additional incentives are needed: circular economy is the buzz-word, and a return scheme [1] for ships is the solution."
Ingvild Jenssen - Executive Director and Founder - NGO Shipbreaking Platform



[1] A report written jointly by Ecorys, the classification society DNVGL and Erasmus University School of Law, and published by the European Commission in July 2016, looks into the possibility of introducing a financial incentive to enhance safe and environmentally sound ship recycling. The report recommends that contributions for a ship recycling licence are collected from all ships visiting EU ports, regardless of their flag. The capital amount accumulated during the operational life of the vessel would be set aside for the ship and be earmarked to reduce the cost gap between substandard and sustainable end-of-life ship management. This amount would only be paid back to the last owner of the vessel if the ship is recycled in a facility approved by the EU.