13 January 2017

Pakistan Shipbreaking: Vulnerable workers

As both experts and labour unions had warned, another fire broke out at the Gadani ship-breaking yard on Thursday within a month of its reopening. Fears that there were new casualties were thankfully proven wrong as the fire was put out before the night was over.

But the incident serves as another reminder that the dangerous working conditions at Gadani still exist. At least a hundred workers were working on an LPG container when the fire broke out. Loss of life was only prevented after workers literally jumped out of the ship in time.

It is clear that the Gadani ship-breaking yard is not ready to be reopened. The federal and provincial governments have not taken the measures that were promised after the November 1 disaster, in which at least 25 workers were burnt to death. We have said before that the Gadani ship-breaking yard has been successful because of the very fact that labour and safety regulations have been ignored. Instead of ensuring the safety of workers, the ship-breaking yard was reopened on pressure from the yard owners.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) shared its report into the     November 1 disaster on the same day as this latest fire. According to the HRCP, there is still no clarity on how many workers were on board the ship when the November 1 fire incident took place. Only the number of skilled workers was counted, but reportedly more workers were on it.

Only a week ago, workers at the ship-breaking yard said that the real death toll may have been as high as 80. The fact that the death toll is still estimated to be anywhere between two dozen and 80 workers is another indicator of the complete disregard of labour laws at the ship-breaking yard. As it stands, even the compensation amounts promised to the workers who died in the       November 1 fire has not been paid.

The HRCP also noted that the first response was provided by a poorly equipped rural healthcare centre and just one fire truck. It took 24 hours for a government ambulance to arrive. The Balochistan Labour Department, responsible for inspecting the vessels at the ship-breaking yard, has also been blamed for being clueless in terms of what its responsibilities were. So it stands that none of the issues that make the Gadani ship-breaking yard a potentially serious threat to workers’ safety has been resolved.  Thursday’s     fire is another warning to the government to do something before more workers are lost.

Source: the news. 25 December 2016
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/174266-Vulnerable-workers

Hong Kong Convention on a knife-edge in 2017

In the final week of the year, we’re looking ahead each day to what’s in store in the months ahead. Today, Dr Nikos Mikelis from GMS looks at the recycling sector.

2017 will be a pivotal year for global ship recycling. The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC), is gaining traction, as both India and Denmark have announced their intention to accede, while the European Commission will decide whether to include yards in India that have proven their compliance with the HKC on their list of approved facilities for the recycling of EU-flagged ships. These factors will have a huge impact on this vital global industry; particularly in South Asia.

Currently, three-quarters of the shipping tonnage recycled annually occurs on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, employing over 130,000 workers – who will be impacted most significantly by decisions made in 2017. The upcoming year holds the opportunity to raise standards, improve the health, safety and welfare of workers around the globe – but this outcome is sadly uncertain.

The European Commission in its implementation of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation might exclude HKC-compliant yards in South Asia that have met the application criteria, on the grounds of their using the beaching method. This move would not only be irresponsible but it will also be naïve. Ensuring clean and safe recycling is just as possible on a beach as it is to conduct dangerous and polluting practices alongside a pier. It is not the location of the recycling process that determines its safety or sustainability, but how the process is managed and the oversight that is in place.

A misjudged European decision would damage the prospects of HKC. The global momentum behind the HKC is largely driven by western economies and Japan, with European nations playing a huge part. With a list of “approved” yards that snubs the best yards in South Asia, EU Governments could consider their work on ship recycling as “job done”, removing that international pressure in support of HKC. This could leave South Asian yards with no financial or regulatory incentive to improve recycling conditions – a bleak prospect.

Conversely, it will be of huge benefit to the region if the EC decides to include on its approved list the leading yards in India that have applied for and have met the HKC Statement of Compliance (SOC) standards. Currently, of the 132 registered recycling yards in Alang, 17 have been awarded SOC with HKC, a further 26 are expected to receive it shortly, and another 20 yards are expected to apply. Inclusion on the EU list would drive further support for increased standards, as competition for EU-flagged ships drives more yards to invest in achieving the SOC standards and European approval.

The approval of Indian yards would also demonstrate that the HKC and the EU Ship Recycling Regulation are complementary rather than mutually exclusive, with EU SRR helping to sustain the momentum towards HKC’s entry into force, with all its attendant benefits.

GMS believes that sustainable ship recycling should become the norm rather than the exception. However, to do this it must be done on a global basis, bringing all ship recycling countries and regions to the same minimum standard. We trust that the rest of the industry shares our view that if the EU’s list excludes recycling yards based on their use of the beaching method, then this cannot be achieved.

Source: splash 24/7. 26 December 2016

What Will 2017 Bring to the Ship Recycling Industry?

Significant decisions that will be made in 2017 have the potential to drastically alter the global ship recycling industry. Denmark and India have announced their intention to accede to the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in 2017, potentially heralding a breakthrough for a globally recognized standard.

2017 will also see the European Commission announce its decision on which non-E.U. yards it will approve for recycling E.U. flagged ships. The question is whether the European Commission will approve any one of the five yards in India that have already applied and which have already proven their compliance with the Hong Kong Convention in advance of it entering into force. This will be a pivotal decision for the industry in South Asia.

Currently, three-quarters of the shipping tonnage recycled annually occurs on the beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, employing over 130,000 workers in the process. It is these yards and their workers who will either benefit most or lose out based on the decisions made in 2017.

The upcoming year holds the opportunity to raise standards, improve workers’ health, safety and welfare, reduce environmental impact and drive widespread sustainability in recycling practices across the world. However, as shipping is an international business, this must be done on a global basis, as it cannot be limited to selected regions.

This is the danger held within the E.U. Ship Recycling Regulation. If the European Commission does not approve South Asian Hong Kong Convention compliant yards that have met the application criteria, due to their use of the beaching method, it will create an insurmountable divide based solely on geographic location.

With three-quarters of the world’s recycling capacity located in South Asia, where beaching is prevalent, the idea that Europe should ban its ships from being recycled there in order to protect workers’ health and safety and the environment is not only irresponsible but naïve. It is not the location of the recycling process that determines its safety or sustainability, but how the process is managed and what oversight is in place. It is just as possible to implement clean and safe recycling practices on a beach as it is to conduct dangerous and polluting recycling alongside a pier.

A misjudged European decision could also threaten the further development and adoption of the Hong Kong Convention, damaging the prospects of improvements in health and safety for workers in South Asian at yards that are not currently investing in becoming Hong Kong Convention compliant.

The global pressure for the Hong Kong Convention to enter into force is largely driven by western economies and Japan, with European nations playing a huge part. With a list of approved yards, E.U. governments could consider their work on ship recycling as “job done,” removing that international pressure in support of the Hong Kong Convention. If they were to be excluded from E.U. approved lists and with momentum lost on the Hong Kong Convention, financial and regulatory incentives to improve environmental protection and workers’ conditions in South Asia would be lost, and investments and improvements in South Asian yards could be abandoned. It’s a bleak prospect.

Conversely, if the E.U. decides to include on its approved list the leading yards in India that have met the Hong Kong Convention Statement of Compliance (SoC) standards and applied for EU approval, it could be a huge boost to the already booming investment in improving standards in Alang.

Currently, of the 132 registered recycling yards in Alang, 17 have been awarded Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention, a further 26 are expected to receive SOCs shortly, and another 20 are expected to apply.

Furthermore, worker health and safety is set to be boosted via a $4.4 million grant towards training, as part of the Indian Government’s Sagarmala Project. With such positive developments already in place, inclusion on the E.U. approved list would only drive a further upturn in momentum towards increased standards.

It is high time for the officials in Brussels to understand how this industry works if they wish to regulate it in a way that is just, that is practical for the shipping industry and that is enforceable.

The approval of Indian yards, will also demonstrate that the Hong Kong Convention and the E.U. Ship Recycling Regulation are be complementary rather than mutually exclusive, helping in this way to sustain the momentum towards the Hong Kong Convention’s entry into force.

For Pakistan and Bangladesh, the approval of Indian yards would demonstrate the benefits that could be gained through Hong Kong Convention compliance ahead of its entry into force, paving this way the preparation of the recycling industries of the two countries for their eventual accession to the Convention.

At the same time, this will provide a greater incentive for the two countries to secure funding for hazardous waste handling facilities to enable them to meet the standards of the Hong Kong Convention for the ship recycling industry and the requirements of the Basel Convention across all industries in the region. This will benefit all industrial workers in these countries.

Ship recycling is an essential part of the shipping industry and part of every vessel’s lifecycle, but it can easily be overlooked in the day-to-day discussion of operations. However, there is no doubt that the industry stands on a knife-edge as we head into 2017.

GMS stands alongside the IndustriALL Union in calling on the E.U. to choose to support global improvement. We hope the rest of the industry will join us in our view that if the E.U.’s list excludes recycling yards based on their use of the beaching method, then this cannot be achieved. Indeed, this will destroy the opportunity of improving safety and welfare standards at some of the world’s unsustainable yards.

Shipping industry leaders must now come together to call on the E.U. to accept the best Indian recycling yards on its approved list and on all IMO member States to accede to the Hong Kong Convention to speed up its entry into force. Only together can we make sustainable ship recycling the norm, rather than the exception.

Source: maritime-executive. 25 December 2016
http://www.maritime-executive.com/editorials/what-will-2017-bring-to-the-ship-recycling-industry

Core and periphery

“People resist exploitation. They resist as actively as they can, as passively as they must.” — Immanuel Wallerstein

IN his world system analysis, Wallerstein speaks of a multiplicity of political systems which gives capitalists a “freedom of manoeuvre that is structurally based”.

This analysis explains how the system works when the core (rich) countries export waste to peripheral (poor) economies in the shape of decaying ships. It is the core (industrialist-state) nexus in the peripheral country itself which benefits at the expense of its peripheral (marginalised) labour. A follow-up of the disaster at the Gadani ship-breaking yard in Balochistan validates the premise.

Demonic, hazards-laden ships will keep coming to Gadani for dismantling.

The government’s response to the deadly fire during the dismantling of a ship has whittled down to compensation to the families of the dead workers, as indicated by the coverage of a meeting held recently at Gadani after another incident of fire at Yard No.60. A seven-member committee was formed to ‘distribute the cheques’.

No other point of the terms of reference for the committee was mentioned by the official who had given orders for arrest of the chairman of the Pakistan Ship-Breakers Association immediately after the November accident.

The whereabouts of the owner of the ship-breaking company, who brought the ship and had gone missing, were not divulged. Neither was the meeting told what happened to the contractor who was arrested or what was the progress of the case filed on behalf of the government at the Gadani police station on Nov 2. Regulatory measures and labour inspection were not even mentioned. Generalised comments were made on legislation to ‘ensure protection of labour rights’.

So it is business as usual at the ship-breaking yard, sans accountability — because accountability does not fit into the political systems of the peripheral country we live in.

In 2012, civil society’s activism and its take on holding the industrialists accountable for the deaths of 258 workers in the Baldia garment factory disaster did create a ripple for a while, as the owner of the factory was put behind bars for criminal negligence for some time but then set free on bail (later a person belonging to a political party was charged with arson).

Labour and human rights groups had filed two constitutional petitions in pursuit of accountability. The victims’ families were compensated by the government and the MNC after a long struggle. But accountability does not suit the system, hence safety and health conditions in the garment factories have remained precarious by and large. Sadly, social and political structures dominated by the core elite obstruct the rule of law and sustain the culture of impunity.

Expectations of improved labour compliance raised at the onset of the GSP-Plus trade regime have come to naught. It has been three years since GSP-Plus status was granted in January 2014 but the situation on the ground has not changed. In the first assessment of the GSP, released in early 2016, the EU had noted implementation of the ILO core standards “…remains a problem for all laws and policy areas in Pakistan. … Only about 340 labour inspectors cover the entire Pakistan and they have been accused of corruption and of collusion with employers.” The EU, in line with the core-periphery analysis, chose to put the blame on the weaker party (labour inspectors) and avoided holding the employers directly accountable.

In early 2016, the government embarked to reform the labour administration system under the ILO-assisted project, ‘Strengthening National Capacity for ILS Compliance in Pakistan’, and carried out an assessment of labour inspection in the provinces. The draft report, shared with few stakeholders in mid-2016, was an objective situation analysis reflecting on the grim status of labour inspection and presented valuable recommendations for a strong labour inspection system.

The assessment highlighted the role of the federal government as crucial for monitoring of implementation of labour laws in the provinces. The year has ended and there is no follow-up.

A two-year project, ‘Sustaining GSP-Plus Status by Strengthened National Capacities to Improve ILS Compliance and Reporting’, was also initiated in January 2016 with ambitious objectives, including facilitation of the “…labour laws reform process”. Apparently the donor-funded projects on themes of labour and human rights do not have any impact on the ground. Unless the will to change emanates from within the body politic, projects tend to work as cosmetics.

The federal government has failed to formulate a national policy, national system, and a national programme on occupational health and safety as required under the ILO Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187).

There has been no follow-up on the draft Sindh Health and Safety Act, 2015 and the draft Sindh Health and Safety Policy, 2015. The outcomes of the ILO-assisted Joint Action Plan for Promoting Workplace Safety and Health in Sindh (2013-2016) are not known. There probably is none.

There are no signs that the world system will change in the near future. The rich countries of hegemonic core are likely to continue dumping their waste to the periphery. Peripheral countries are left to devise their own strategies to survive waste and fight entropy.

Demonic, hazards-laden ships will keep coming to Gadani for dismantling and marginalised labour will continue to risk their lives and limbs. What both — the elite and the labour — can do is to make efforts to curb adverse impacts of this activity.

National regulatory frameworks should be in place, implemented through a strong regime of labour inspection. Accountability and transparency in the ship-breaking business must be ensured. Ship-breaking yards should be open to inspection by trade unions, human rights groups and NGOs working on environment.

Source: the dawn. 31 December 2016

Ship Recycling: The European List Published – Only Facilities Contained In The List Can Recycle Ships Flying The Flag Of An EU

As the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (the “Hong Kong Convention”) is yet to enter into force, the European Union (“EU”) has surpassed the Hong Kong Convention in implementing controls and criteria applicable to ships and ship recycling facilities with the Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 (the “Regulation”). The aim of the Regulation is to facilitate early ratification of the Hong Kong Convention both within the EU and in non-member states by applying proportionate controls to ships and ship recycling facilities on the basis of the Hong Kong Convention.

According to article 16 of the Regulation, ship recycling facilities must be approved by the competent authorities for member states and the European Commission for non-member states in order to be included in the European List and for that matter to be able to recycle ships flying the flag of an EU member state. The European List has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 20 December 2016. The list currently contains facilities located in member states only, with 18 facilities in ten different states. Spain, Lithuania and the UK lead the list in the number of facilities entered with three facilities each. However, in compliance with the principle of equality in EU law, the Commission is ready to accept entries to the list from recycling facilities located in non-member states as well as member states.

Turkey became one of the first countries to sign the Hong Kong Convention on 26 August 2010. Considering that Turkish ship recycling facilities are in compliance with the essential requirements of the Hong Kong Convention, it would not be surprising if Turkish facilities became the first non-member state facilities to be added to the European List.

A ship recycling company owning a ship recycling facility located in a non-member state and intending to recycle ships flying the flag of an EU member state should submit an application to the Commission for inclusion of that ship recycling facility in the European List. The application must be accompanied by evidence that the ship recycling facility concerned complies with the requirements set out in the Regulation. Compliance by ship recycling facilities located in non-member states are to be certified following a site inspection by an independent verifier with appropriate qualifications and this certificate must be included in the application to the Commission.

The Regulation will enter into force 6 months after the date that the combined maximum annual ship recycling output of the ship recycling facilities included in the European List constitutes not less than 2.5 million light displacement tonnes (LDT) and in any case latest by 31 December 2018.

As one of the top five ship recycling countries in the world, Turkey is well placed to occupy a significant position within the European List with modern ship recycling facilities that meet the required standards. At ErsoyBilgehan, with our vast experience on the legal aspects of transboundary movement of wastes and import of ships for recycling, we advise and represent our clients before Turkish and foreign authorities with regard to making the required applications and obtaining permits.

Source: Hellenic shipping news. 11 January 2017
http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/ship-recycling-the-european-list-published-only-facilities-contained-in-the-list-can-recycle-ships-flying-the-flag-of-an-eu/