India pledges commitment to IMO ship recycling treaty

Gopal Krishna, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Shipping and Amitabh Kumar, India's Director General of Shipping, deposited the instrument of accession to the Hong Kong Convention with IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim on 28 November during the thirty-first session of the IMO Assembly. Credit: IMO

As one of the five major ship recycling countries, India’s recent accession of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Hong Kong Convention brings the installation of global standards for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships significantly closer to becoming a mandatory reality.

The top five ship recycling countries in the world – Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, and Turkey – account for more than 98% of all ship recycling by gross tonnage. According to IRClass, close to 6.2 million gt on average is scrapped in India every year, which accounts for 33% of the total scrapped tonnage in the world. India is also home to one of the largest ship breaking facilities in the world, with over 150 yards located its coast.

In recent years, increasing health and environmental concerns surrounding the process of ship breaking led to the development of an international treaty and the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was established in 2009.

The Hong Kong Convention covers the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of ships to ensure they can be recycled safely and in an environment-friendly way at the end of their lives. It also addresses how ships should be prepared for their final voyage to a recycling facility, without compromising their safety or operational efficiency.

Under the Hong Kong Convention, ships sent for recycling are required to carry an inventory of all hazardous materials on board. Ship recycling facilities are required to provide a “Ship Recycling Plan”, specifying how each ship will be recycled, based on its particular characteristics and its inventory of hazardous materials.

The Hong Kong Convention will enter into force 24 months after three separate criteria have been met. It must be ratified by 15 states – but these states must represent 40% of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, and a combined maximum annual ship recycling volume (during the preceding 10 years) of not less than 3% of their combined gross tonnage.

India now joins the other 14 contracting states who have pledged their accession to the treaty, with India’s ship recycling volume considerably contributing to the required recycling capacity. However, even with India’s accession, the number of states required has now been reached, but further tonnage and recycling volumes are needed before the convention can enter into force.