Bangladesh, the world’s largest shipbreaking nation, is taking steps to ratify the Hong Kong Convention Ship’s crew

One of the world’s leading shipbreaking nations is in the process of streamlining its approach to dismantling end-of-life ships.

To ensure that decommissioned ships do not unnecessarily endanger human health, safety or the environment, Bangladesh has announced its intention to ratify the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (Hong Kong Convention).

The move was praised by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Bangladesh is one of the top shipbreaking countries in the world, but is often criticized for its poor safety record and continued use of the controversial stranding method of shipbreaking.

In 2022, the country was responsible for the dismantling of 122 of the 443 seagoing vessels sold for scrap. according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, second to India. At least 10 workers were killed and 33 workers injured when ships broke up on Chattogram Beach in Bangladesh.

The Hong Kong Convention aims to ensure that end-of-life ships do not pose unnecessary risks to human health, safety and the environment when recycled. The agreement covers the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships for dismantling; the safe and environmentally sound operation of ship recycling plants; and the establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling, including certification and reporting requirements.

Prior to Bangladesh’s decision, the Hong Kong Convention had been ratified by 20 nations, accounting for about 30% of global merchant shipping gross tonnage.

For the Convention to be formally adopted, it must be ratified by at least 15 nations, representing 40% of the world’s merchant shipping by gross tonnage and together having a maximum annual ship recycling volume of at least 3% of their total tonnage. The inclusion of Bangladesh brings the entry into force of the Convention a step closer.

John Stawpert, senior manager for environment and trade at the International Chamber of Shipping, commended Bangladesh’s leadership and commitment, stressing the importance of a unified approach as regional systems that disregard the economic realities of the industry can easily be circumvented.

“Our industry is international and ship recycling can only be effectively regulated through a global system,” said Stawpert. “Regional systems that ignore the economic realities of the industry can easily be circumvented and this positive development will ensure sufficient compliant recycling capacity under the oversight of national authorities and the United Nations regulator, the International Maritime Organization (IMO).”

While some shipyards in Bangladesh adhere to Hong Kong Convention standards, Bangladesh’s decision ensures a sufficient amount of compliant recycling capacity, which is overseen by national authorities and the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Bangladesh’s notorious shipbreaking yards are vying for a cleaner, safer future

In 2018, Bangladesh committed to ratifying the Hong Kong Convention by 2023 through its Ship Recycling Act, which transposed the Convention’s provisions into national law. This commitment also marked the beginning of a concerted effort to improve the country’s recycling capacity, a process that has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, however, Stawpert is optimistic that the Convention’s two-year entry into force period will allow Bangladesh to catch up on the necessary investment, infrastructure and training.

As the shipping industry strives for net-zero emissions by 2050, responsible ship recycling will become increasingly important as older, less efficient ships are phased out and replaced with net-zero ships.

“Environmental, social and governance factors, as well as demands from charterers and customers, have meant that compliance with the Hong Kong Convention has become the growing standard for the sale of ship recycling and the recycling process itself,” Stawpert said. “Ratification by a major ship recycler like Bangladesh further confirms this trend and the entry into force of the agreement will create a level playing field around the world that has been developing for a generation. Compliance with the requirements of the Convention will therefore be crucial for ship recyclers to secure their market share in the future.”

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