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Shipbreakers plan to oppose ratification of IMO convention

MUMBAI: Indian efforts to approve and ratify the latest International Maritime Organisation (IMO) convention on ship recycling, which, according to
the agreement, should start with right earnest from August, is not going to be a smooth affair.

A majority of Indian recycling industry players are up against ratifying the convention, as it contains some controversial clauses, a few of which are so detrimental that they could eventually lead to the closing of the shipbreaking industry in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In fact, Indian players have voiced their concerns at the second national workshop of the IMO, held in February this year in Mumbai to finalise the draft of the convention. Despite the promise to incorporate necessary changes, they feel, the convention was adopted without the necessary changes at the diplomatic conference held in Hong Kong in May 2009.

PS Nagarsheth, president of the Iron Steel Scrap & Shipbreakers' Association of India, said, "The industry is totally against the convention. We, along with our colleagues, are planning how to protest. We need to have a strong strategy because sometimes what happens is that concerned officials take advantage of the difference of opinion among the members of the industry. So, under such circumstances we need to take a firm stand."

According to Mr Nagarsheth, there are three primary issues. He said, "the Indian submission about gas-free of hot work was not accepted. The gas-free for hot work certification is very important from the point of avoiding adverse impact on environment resulting from oil seepage and also from the point of workers' safety. Secondly, the clause on entry of a force is not very specific and cumbersome," he said. The provision controls not only how many states need to join the treaty to bring it into force.

"More seriously, the underlining tone of the convention is against beaching method though it is not spelt out," he said. In bleaching, ships are dumped at high tide and then allowed to drift to beaches to be taken apart. It is a practice that environmental and rights groups want the IMO to ban. Most of the developed countries practice floating method for shipbreaking.

According to Mr Nagarsheth, the way the deliberations are going on then a ban of the beaching method may come as an amendment to the convention in future to prohibit the method altogether," he said, adding, "So, it is advisable to oppose the convention itself to avoid any future setback."

If the beaching method is not accepted, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will have to close down their shipbreaking activities, and it could happen within the next five years, he said.

According to shipbreakers based in Alang, Indian regulations are stricter than IMO guidelines. For example, India does not permit oil tankers without gas-free for hot work and it does not exclude war ships and government vessels.

"Govt of India is always taking the side of the industry. There is no second opinion about that. But what happens in world forums where India become isolated, it is not able to put its foot down like other nations like China."

30 June, 2009
Economic Times

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