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Nonprofits slam EU’s move on ship recycling

Keywords: Tags  ship recycling, shipbreaking, scrap, Basel Action Network, Jim Puckett, Shipbreaking Platform, Sean Davidson

NEW YORK — A collective of nonprofit organizations around the world, including some in the United States, have voiced their dismay at the European Union’s adoption of new regulations governing its shipbreaking industry.

Nearly 160 environmental, human and labor rights organizations represented by the Shipbreaking Platform and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) condemned the new E.U. regulations on ship recycling, with suggestions that the law contains illegal provisions that violate the Basel Convention.

The Shipbreaking Platform and the EEB denounced the new E.U. regulations on ship recycling "for effectively postponing and possibly ridding the E.U. of its responsibility to provide solutions to the global shipbreaking crisis."

"European shipping interests will continue to make significant financial profits by externalizing environmental and human health costs to the shipbreaking beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and to the exploited work force there," the organizations said.

While the new regulations mandate that ships registered under an E.U. flag are sent to approved ship recycling facilities that are built to adequately contain hazardous materials, it doesn’t prevent ship owners from switching vessels to a non-E.U. flag prior to sending the ships for breaking in order to avoid falling under the requirements of the new E.U. law.

"In fact, the regulation may even have the unintended effect of shrinking the number of ships registered under an E.U. flag, and therefore making the regulation counterproductive to other E.U. initiatives aimed at building a more-robust E.U. fleet," the organizations said.

Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN) joined the dissent.

"The new ship recycling regulation removed end-of-life ships that contain hazardous materials from the scope of the European Waste Shipment Regulation despite the fact that the Basel Convention requires strictly regulating these materials in order to prevent the indiscriminate dumping of toxic waste on developing countries," it said July 1.

According to BAN, there is clear and compelling legal opinion demonstrating that the unilateral move was a breach of E.U. legal obligations, as it is required to uphold the Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment. Independent legal experts and the European Council Legal Services warned of the illegality of the new regulations, it said, yet the European Council and European Parliament disregarded the warnings, taking a calculated risk that European courts wouldn’t strike down the regulation prior to its entry into force.

"The new ship recycling regulation very cynically promotes illegal traffic in hazardous waste that would never be allowed for any other industry," BAN executive director Jim Puckett said. "We have a situation now in Europe where it is a criminal act to export an old computer to India but perfectly legal to export a toxic ship. It makes a shocking and shameful mockery of Europe’s alleged concern for human rights and the environment."

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