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EC Publishes Green Paper On Safe Ship Dismantling

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

24 May 2007

The European Commission on Tuesday published a consultation paper on how to make the dismantling of old ships safer for workers and the environment.

The Green Paper on better ship dismantling represents an important stage in the development of an EU strategy in this area.

Highlighting the dangerous and polluting conditions under which many ships are currently broken up on South Asian beaches, the paper sets out a range of options for action at EU level, pending the development and entry into force of a planned international Convention on safe ship recycling.

The aim of the consultation is to seek input from EU institutions, member states, stakeholders and the public on the best way forward in addressing this serious health, safety and environmental issue.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas explained that:

“Many ships from Europe and around the world are broken up in South Asia in appalling conditions which lead to hundreds of deaths and injuries each year and serious coastal pollution. The EU has a duty to take action to protect the health and safety of the workers involved and reduce the pollution these activities are causing. There is an urgent need for binding international rules, but until an international solution is found, the EU should tackle the problem caused by the ship dismantling of state-owned ships and warships."

As a consultation document, the Green Paper does not present a ready-made plan, but suggests a range of options intended to intensify dialogue with Member States and stakeholders and prepare the ground for future action.

For the longer term, the Green Paper proposes that the EU should support the ongoing process to develop an international Ship Recycling Convention, but with a stronger role for the EU itself.

It points to the need for a sustainable financing scheme for clean dismantling, which could be organised in the form of a "Ship dismantling fund", and levies on the shipping industry.

The paper also suggests measures which could take effect in the short and medium term.

These include better enforcement of the Waste Shipment Regulation by more checks at European ports; more systematic cooperation and information exchange between EU authorities; and publication of guidance such as a list of ‘clean’ ship dismantling facilities.

‘Clean’ ship dismantling capacity in Europe could be increased through stricter and more harmonised public procurement rules for the scrapping of government vessels. Whether state aid and EU subsidies for clean facilities in Europe would be possible or advisable, however, is left to further assessment.

EU institutions, member states, EU and foreign stakeholders and the public at large are invited to comment on the Green Paper by 30 September 2007.

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