New EU rules unlikely to stop shipbreaking on sub-continental beaches

Mumbai: The European Union (EU) has announced strict new rules on demolition of old vessels, which appear set to benefit Turkish, Chinese and European shipbreakers, but are unlikely to stop shipbreaking on the beaches of the Indian sub-continent.

The new rules require that EU-registered ships not be demolished on beaches, but be recycled only at sustainable facilities, a list of which is expected to be published next year. It is thought that this list will include yards in China, Turkey, North America and the European Union, but will leave out yards in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Statistics available with the non-government organisation (NGO) Shipbreaking Platform indicate that 1,026 ocean-going ships were recycled in 2014, of which 641 were demolished on beaches in the three Indian sub-continental countries.

The NGO alleges that old vessels are beached and then dismantled by hundreds of unskilled workers using simple tools such as blowtorches. Chemicals leak into the ocean when the tide comes in, and there is also a human cost, with 470 deaths said to have occurred in the past 20 years in accidents at the world’s largest shipbreaking yard Alang, on the Gujarat coast.

“The European list will split the market into a safe market and a substandard market,” said Patrizia Heidegger of Shipbreaking Platform, which has been campaigning against the “inhuman practice” of dismantling condemned vessels on beaches.

However, Haiderali G. Meghani, director of International Steel Corporation, a large ship recycling firm based in Alang, insisted that concerns about poor safety and environmental standards in India were misplaced. “We are almost near to European standards,” he said.

Shirish Nadkarni

Shirish Nadkarni is a management consultant and freelance international journalist, who has been writing on all spheres of Indian business for the past three decades for a number of reputed overseas publications. An avid sportsman, Nadkarni has represented India in international veterans' badminton since 1997, and was the 55+ age group doubles world champion in 2005.
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