The plastic continent — and how to tackle it — may be hogging the headlines, but the shipping industry – frowned upon as a notorious polluter on a massive scale – is also being effectively reined in and compelled by law to go green. EU legislation and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are wielding their increasingly environmental sustainability vision and doing so in a holistic manner that is impacting shipping worldwide.
Indeed the targeted spheres are:
• Sea transport of toxic waste
• Dismantling of ships
• Sulphur emissions
In all fairness, a more environmentally conscious shipping industry has long been taking shape.
Sea transport of toxic waste
Spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention), set the ball rolling to mitigate the risks of transporting toxic waste across the oceans in 1989. Despite expected resistance and taking three years to be enforced, the ratification of 186 countries provided a step in the right direction.
The Basel Convention was aimed at reducing the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries, but not prohibiting them. Thus the Basel Convention relies on the ‘prior informed consent’ of the authorities of the respective importing countries to ensure that any hazardous waste is treated in an environmentally sound manner by the importing countries in question. While environmental issues began to gain traction, the Basel Convention could not guarantee a foolproof outcome, more so when 1-off cases were occasionally allowed to bypass the rules.
An attempt at more stringent control was adopted in 1995, when the Basel Convention introduced its ‘Ban Amendment’ to prohibit the export of all toxic waste from OECD to non-OECD countries. Yet, once again, insufficient ratification proved a stumbling block. Indeed, the Ban amendment will enter into force on December 5, 2019, since Croatia ratified it on September 6, 2019, being the last ratification required to meet the three-fourths (of the State Parties to the Basel Convention) ratification threshold.
The Basel Convention’s effectiveness in regulating ship recycling began to lose favour, since its code of practice was not comprehensive enough, particularly as the adverse impact of climate change started to dominate political agendas.
This goaded the EU to enforce the Basel Convention, the ‘Amendment Ban’ and the OECD Decision C (2001)107/FINAL, unilaterally in 2006 through its Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 on shipments of waste, known as the European Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR). The WSR includes a ban on the export of hazardous wastes to non-OECD countries, as well as a ban on the export of waste for disposal. This stipulated that, since the dismantling of ships was now deemed as ‘hazardous waste’ and as long as the conditions adopted by the WSR are satisfied, no end-of-life ship leaving any EU port could be exported to a non-OED country to be scrapped. In fact, the concept of flag state was once again waived off. The outcome of this regulation did not prove successful so in order to strengthen Member States’ inspection systems, WSR was amended in 2014 through Regulation (EU) No 660/2014 of 15 May 2014.