Shipbuilding. Energy. Transport

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New ship recycling convention set for adoption at Hong Kong Conference

Preview: International Conference on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, Hong Kong, China, 11-15 May 2009

A new international convention on ship recycling is to be considered for adoption at a diplomatic conference to be held in Hong Kong, China, from 11 to 15 May 2009. The new convention is aimed at ensuring that ships when they are being recycled, after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety and the environment.

The draft International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships has been developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution from ships.

The new convention intends to address all the issues around ship recycling, including the fact that ships sold for scrapping may contain environmentally hazardous substances such as asbestos, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, ozone-depleting substances and others. It will address concerns raised about the working and environmental conditions at many of the world's ship recycling locations.

The draft text of the proposed ship recycling convention has been developed over the past three years, with input from IMO Member States and relevant industry organizations, and in co-operation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Parties of the Basel Convention (BC). The draft was approved by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), when it met for its 58th session at the Organization's London headquarters in October 2008.

Regulations in the new convention will cover: the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships so as to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling, without compromising the safety and operational efficiency of ships; the operation of ship recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner; and the establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling, incorporating certification and reporting requirements.

Ships to be sent for recycling will be required to carry an inventory of hazardous materials, which will be specific to each ship. An appendix to the convention will provide a list of hazardous materials the installation or use of which is prohibited or restricted in shipyards, ship repair yards, and ships of Parties to the convention. Ships will be required to have an initial survey to verify the inventory of hazardous materials, additional surveys during the life of the ship, and a final survey prior to recycling.

Ship recycling yards will be required to provide a "Ship Recycling Plan", to specify the manner in which each ship will be recycled, depending on its particulars and its inventory. Parties will be required to take effective measures to ensure that ship recycling facilities under their jurisdiction comply with the convention.

A series of guidelines are being developed to assist in the convention's implementation.

The entry-into-force criteria for the convention (number of States and percentage of gross merchant shipping tonnage required) will be decided by the conference.

IMO's role in the recycling of ships
IMO's role in the recycling of ships, the terminology used to refer to ship scrapping, was first raised at the 44th MEPC session in March 2000, following which a correspondence group was established to research the issue and provide a range of information about current ship recycling practices and suggestions on the role of IMO. Guidelines on ship recycling were developed by the MEPC and finalized at the Committee's 49th session in July 2003, before being adopted by the 23rd IMO Assembly in November-December 2003.

At its 53rd session in July 2005, the MEPC agreed that IMO should develop, as a high priority, a new instrument on recycling of ships with a view to providing legally binding and globally applicable ship recycling regulations for international shipping and for recycling facilities. The IMO Assembly, in 2005, subsequently agreed that IMO should develop the new legally-binding instrument on ship recycling.

Ship recycling statistics
The main ship recycling countries are Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

The number of ships recycled each year is variable and ship recycling appears to be cyclical in nature. In recent years, the average age of recycled ships rose to around 32 years in the early 2000s, from around 26-27 years old in the 1990s. The low volume and high average age of recycled ships in recent times was explained, to a great extent, by the particularly buoyant state of the freight market in most shipping sectors up to 2008.

However, it is not thought that shipping markets alone drive recycling prices, or the volumes of recycling. The large price differentials that exist between different recycling markets are thought to reflect not only differences in labour and environmental compliance costs for recycling ships but, principally, differences in internal demand for ship steel and, consequently, the price obtained by the recyclers in each different economy.

Briefing 17, 7 May 2009

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 ( or
Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (


Please see International Maritime Organization (IMO) company electronic office

For further information please contact:
Head, Public Information Services
Lee Adamson
Tel: +44 (0)20 7587 3153

Media and Communications Officer
Natasha Brown
Tel: +44 (0)20 7587 3274

IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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