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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Why India should not accede to Hong Kong Convention and refrain from giving effect to its provisions through Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018


Shri Derek O Brien,
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture

Subject- Why India should not accede to Hong Kong Convention and refrain from giving effect to its provisions through Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018


With reference to the draft Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018 and the meeting of the stakeholders to discuss held on 14.06.2018 in 'Sagar Manthan', Room No: 5419, Fourth Floor, Transport Bhawan, Parliament Street, New Delhi-110001, to discuss the draft Bill, we wish to submit the following as to why India should not accede to International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships and refrain from giving effect to its provisions through Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018:

1.      We submit that a nexus of transnational ship owners’ lobbies and cash buyers have succeeded in Bangladesh in getting a bill titled, 'Bangladesh Ship Recycling Bill, 2018,' passed from Bangladesh Parliament in January 2018. The Bill was introduced by Mr Amir Hossain Amu, Industries Minister of Bangladesh and it was passed by voice vote.
2.      Having engaged with the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking, Ministry of Steel in the past, we submit that these very transnational ship owners’ lobbies and cash buyers have been instrumental in getting the supervision of ship-breaking industry which was under the Steel Ministry from 1983 till July 2014 shifted under the supervision of the Ministry of Shipping. We still feel that logically, the ship-breaking industry should be with the Steel Ministry given the fact that once the ship beaches there is no role for the Shipping Ministry.
3.      We submit that the same transnational ship owners’ lobbies and cash buyers are behind the incorporation of provisions of Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships in India’s Draft Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018 
4.      We submit that the stakeholders (rights holders) include India’s ship breaking /recycling industry, migrant workers, village communities, fishing community, environmental groups, labour groups, secondary steel re-rolling mills, manufacturers of secondary steel products.  All these rights holders have not been consulted.
5.      We have been a petitioner in the Hon'ble Supreme Court and have appeared before Hon'ble Court constituted Committees in this regard.
6.      We submit that some foreign global shipping lobbies are at work to ensure that India ratifies IMO's "Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 (the Hong Kong Convention)" which has not come into force because shipbreakers, environmental and labour groups of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are opposed to it as it is anti-environment, anti-workers and contrary to supreme national interest.  These lobbies are working to do indirectly what they have not been able to do directly through the incorporation of provisions of this Convention in the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018.
7.      We submit that the death toll in the ship breaking/recycling plots of Gujarat’s Alang beach continues to rise. The recent death of two migrant workers of Madhya Pradesh in Gujarat's Alang ship breaking yards at plot no. 32 in Bhavnagar is a case in point, we wish to inform you that in the morning of 14 March, 2018, Shri Balram Dhulia (40) and Shri Ramnayan Rajbhar (42), natives of Madhya Pradesh were asphyxiated to death due to gas leakage. It has been reported that “The incident occurred at plot number 32 where the duo had gone into an empty tank of the ship that was anchored for breaking”. Fire brigade officials took the duo’s bodies out and took them to Talaja Civil Hospital, where they were declared brought dead, as per The Times of India, Rajkot edition. The information received from Bhavnagar reveal that between April 2018 and May 2018 there has been 4 more deaths.
8.      We also submit that earlier Shri Ashok Yadav, who was migrant worker from Bihar employed in the ship breaking activity at plot no. 14Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat too had died.  As per Hindustan newspaper’s Bhagalpur edition, the dead body of the worker reached Chidaiyawad village under Bariyaarpur police station of Munger, Bihar on the evening of 18 September, 2017 after 72 hours of his death. So far some 500 workers have died in the ship breaking activity since 1983 as per official records. Prior to these recent deaths, in the year 2017 two workers died on 4th March and 16th March. Even as per official data on an average some 10 workers have died annually in the past decade at Alang. As a result of accidents during ship-breaking at least two workers died in 2016 and eight workers died in 2015. In 2014, 18 workers died in accidents in Alang shipyards. We wish to know whether Ship Breaking Scrap Committee is doing anything to ensure that such deaths do not occur in future even as there are reports about Japan International Cooperation Agency getting involved to upgrade the existing infrastructure at Alang and to modernise the Darukhana ship-breaking facility in Mumbai.
9.      We submit that unlike Ministry of Steel which regularly uploaded the minutes of the meetings of the inter-ministerial committee on ship breaking, the inter-ministerial Ship Breaking Scrap Committee under Ministry of Steel has not done so since July 22, 2014. The minutes are crucial to  know whether shipping companies and ship breaking industry and relevant public institutions are in compliance with the Shipbreaking Code, 2013, Basel Convention, the only international/UN law on ship breaking as of today. These minutes could reveal whether Ferrous Scrap Development Fund is being used for welfare of workers in the shipbreaking industry.
10.  We submit that global shipping companies, especially from Europe are the most influential players besides Japan. They get such laws made which cater to their interests ignoring environmental and occupational health costs. In the past 10 years the situation has worsened with regard to worker's health and environmental health in the ship breaking industry in Gujarat.
11.  We submit that environmental groups have been demanding that the ship breaking activity should shift from the beach, which is a fragile coastal environment, which is cherished in developed countries. 
12.  We submit that there is no regulatory pressure on shipyards to comply with all of the current conventions in employees’ safety, better working conditions and environmental consciousness. The ship breaking industry is operating as if there is law holiday. They violate every rule in the rule book. Violation of laws is the norm. Compliance with laws does not happen even in exceptional cases.
13.  We submit that the Hong Kong Convention of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has been drafted to safeguard the interests of ship owning companies at the 2nd Annual Conference on Ship Recycling. It is regressive, anti-environment and anti-labour. IMO’s Convention conflicts with the UN’s Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal and the Basel Ban Amendment, which is the only international law in force to regulate ship-breaking. IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) must ensure decontamination of the beaches and suggest a phase out period for the industry to move away from a fragile coastal environment like beaches in order to protect the health of the local community and their ecosystem.  Hong Kong Convention promotes status quo with regard to ongoing poisoning of the beach.
14.  We submit that toxic waste generated in the process of ship breaking/recycling has not been dealt properly in South Asian beaches/shipyards so far. The use of asbestos in new construction projects has been banned for health and safety reasons in some 60 countries including developed countries or regions, including the European Union, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and New Zealand. WHO and ILO have called for its elimination. But in Alang some 60-65 % of the workers are exposed to asbestos without any remedy and compensation in sight. Village communities and agricultural fields in the vicinity have become dumping ground of hazardous wastes including asbestos wastes.
15.  We submit that the wrongful act of locating polluting ship breaking activity in Alang, Bhavnagar, India, Chittagong, Bangladesh and Gadani, Pakistan when there was no environmental sensitivity must be undone. MEPC’s failure to address this problem and allow status quo will defeat the very purpose for which the committee has been constituted. Protection of the marine environment of these beaches is the fundamental reason for MEPC’s existence.
16.  We submit that on these South Asian beaches like those in Gujarat’s Alang, vulnerable migrant workers break end-of-life ships amidst exposure from hazardous materials like asbestos, persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals without any environmental and occupational health security. The International Labour Organization has classified shipbreaking on beaches to be the dirtiest, most degrading and dangerous job.
17.  We submit that the role of IMO must be restricted till the ship remains a ship or a floating structure. Once it is no more a floating structure, the role of IMO should cease. Working at the yard should be addressed by ILO while handling of hazardous waste should be based on Basel Convention norms. It is critical of the treaty because it does not assign definite role to ship owners, builders, classification societies or suppliers. The only role prescribed for ship owners is to submit the inventory of hazardous materials. It does not prescribe remedy or precautions to be taken against environment damage resulting from ship recycling operations particularly of oil seepage.
18.  We submit that if one compares the IMO treaty with the pre-existing regulations it is clear that the former is quite regressive and not forward looking. These regulations do not permit ships meant dismantling without gas-free for hot work. They do not exclude war ships and government vessels. The relaxation on these two issues in IMO regulations will act as a loophole to divert ships for recycling from regulated countries to non-regulated countries.
19.  We submit that IMO’s callous towards the plight of the workers and is simply pandering to the whims and fancies of the ship owners from developed countries. It does not provide for prior decontamination of hazardous materials and wastes in the country of export. Notably, the Convention does not include directions that are mandatory for the protection of environmental and occupational health. Biodiversity of the marine environment and adverse impact on its ecological status has not been factored in the ongoing shipbreaking activity.
20.  We submit that IMO’s treaty is essentially very status quoist is the manner in which beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is allowed to be contaminated just because the shipbreaking activity commenced in an era when environmental protection was not a priority. The shipbreaking activity to be truly sustainable must be taken off the beach and these beaches must be remediated and restored for posterity as is done in the developed world. The current practice of beaching method seems economically viable due to cost externalization of pollution and adverse health impact.
21.  We submit that IMO is pretending ignorance about manifold increase in the pollution level on these beaches and disappearance of local biodiversity.
22.  We submit that Hongkong Convention fails to address the four fatal flaws of the beaching method for ship breaking that is practiced in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan: cranes cannot be placed alongside ship, lack of access by emergency vehicles and equipment, no possibility for containment and coastal zone, intertidal zone is environmentally sensitive and managing hazardous wastes in the intertidal zone can never be environmentally sound.
23.  We submit that all end-of-life ships broken in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India is 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.
24.  We submit that 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. Ship breaking/Recycling cannot be done in a safe and clean way on a beach without proper technologies and infrastructure, and enforced regulations.
25.  We submit that IMO has failed to communicate categorically to the Marine Environment Protection Committee of IMO that Hongkong Ship Recycling Convention does not meet the bar of equivalent level of control and this backward step is unacceptable. Environmental health, Labour and human groups have been demanding remediation of these beaches of its toxic contamination because of ship-breaking activity to retrieve and protect the fragile coastal environmental and public health of communities and their livelihoods.
26.  We submit that transnational ship owners’ lobbies and cash buyers have been able to neutralize the opposition from shipbreaking industry in Bangaldesh. They are in the process of doing so in India as well. Till recently they were opposed to this Convention shipbreaking/ship recycling because the IMO treaty has been prepared under the influence of the ship owners and ship owning countries designed to transfer the obligation of observing the entire regulations on ship recycling countries.
27.  We ask: how dumping of hazardous end-of-life ships can become beneficial in the long run. Why should preparation of Inventory of Hazardous Material (IHM) await ratification of regressive Hongkong Convention?
28.  We submit that dry docking facility in Gujarat’s Alang alone can safeguard coastal environment for the current generation and posterity. Environmental groups demand dry dock method in place of polluting beaching method for breaking/recycling the ships. The burden of creating dry docking facilities can be jointly shouldered by the beneficiaries like ship owners, shipbreakers, IMO and the governments concerned. Environmentally Safe Ship breaking/recycling cannot be carried out through the beaching method.
29.  We submit that there is a need to impose ban on international trade in hazardous wastes and disapproves of Hongkong Convention that attempts to undermine hard earned Basel Convention under the influence of seemingly ungovernable shipping industries.  
30.  We submit that European version of Hongkong Convention adopted by the European Council on June 27, 2013 was under the influence of European shipping industry. European Parliament’s stature has been eroded by its approval of new EU Regulation on ship recycling. It has deprived itself of the opportunity to solve the environmental and occupational health crisis facing Alang, Bhavnagar, India, Chittagong, Bangladesh and Gadani, Pakistan. It has succumbed to those undemocratic institutions which remain addicted to externalizing environmental and human health costs to the shipbreaking beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. These business enterprises have manipulated the legal and political system in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to ensure that most European owned vessels broken on these beaches of South Asia by registering under non-EU flags such as Panama, Liberia and the Bahamas.
31.  We submit that ship owners have been hoodwinking legal regimes in place by not declaring their intent to dispose the vessel whilst at a European port to avoid extra costs of using safe and environmentally sound ship recycling facilities. The new EU Regulation’s pretensions of banning breaking of EU flagged ships on tidal beaches stands exposed as it does not provide for prevention of ship owners from jumping register to a non-EU flag prior to sending their ships for breaking in order to avoid falling under the requirements of the new EU law. Beaching sites will not be approved for EU listing, which prevents EU flagged ships from being beached. But by merely choosing to register their ships under non- EU flags.
32.  We submit that there is nothing new in European Council’s acceptance of the European Parliament’s proposal to bind all ships calling at EU ports to have an inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) that are contained within the vessels’ structure, a prerequisite for clean and safe ship recycling. It could have easily have been done under the pre-existing laws.
33.  We submit that efforts of the large shipping nations such as Greece, Malta, Cyprus who blocked measures for ensuring traceability of hazardous wastes dumped in developing countries and clearly linking liability for these wastes to the polluter along with ship owners constitutes an inhuman exercise.
34.  We submit that European Council’s exemption to end-of-life ships from the European Waste Shipment Regulation is meant for protecting developing countries from the dumping of hazardous wastes and incorporating the UN’s Basel Convention and its Basel Ban Amendment is indeed a breach of the European Union’s legal obligations to uphold the Basel Convention and its Basel Ban Amendment compelling 27 European Member States that are Parties to the Basel Convention to accept the fait accompli of committing  illegality and of acting in non-compliance with their obligations under international law.
35.  We submit that EU has ratified and implemented the UN laws into the national legislation of all EU Member States via the European Waste Shipment Regulation. The latter forbids the export of hazardous wastes from the EU to non-OECD countries. Article 29 of the law on ship recycling adopted yesterday removes hazardous waste ships from the scope of application of the European Waste Shipment Regulation. Pre-existing EU legal instruments were contrary to IMO’s Convention but the new one attempts to be in line with it despite manifest legal inconsistency.  In such a scenario when EU is complicit in undermining Basel Convention proposed market-based solutions cannot make the shipping industry accountable. It has not worked in the past. It is bound fail. EU’s long held righteous stance for environmental and human rights which were cited to make developing countries emulate stands exposed.

In view of the above mentioned facts, we seek your immediate intervention to ensure that India does not accede to Hong Kong Convention and our government refrains from giving effect to its provisions through Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships Bill, 2018.
Thanking you

warm regards
Dr Gopal Krishna
Editor, ToxicsWatch
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660

Chairman, Ship Breaking Scrap Committee
Member Secretary, Ship Breaking Scrap Committee
Member, Ship Breaking Scrap Committee
Secretary, Ministry of Steel
Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board
Focal Point, Basel Convention, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Shri S.D. Kaushik, Consultant, Ministry of Shipping

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