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  Business Times 10 Oct 07
Scrapping - the green way
Shipowners, shipyards should gear up for new convention on hazardous materials in ships
By David Hughes

THE recent World Maritime Day had as its theme 'Shipping and the Environment'. Over recent months, the environmental issue that has been most associated with the shipping industry has been the control of emissions. The focus has increasingly been on shipping's carbon dioxide output.

But there are other issues bubbling away in the background. In his World Maritime Day message, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos certainly mentioned emissions but he also covered several other major issues which the IMO is tackling.

One of them was ship recycling, or scrapping as we used to call it. Mr Mitropoulos said: 'IMO is currently developing a new mandatory instrument providing legally binding and globally applicable ship-recycling regulations for international shipping and recycling facilities, which is due for adoption in the 2008-2009 biennium.'

There has been intense campaigning by environmental groups and some trade unions over ship scrapping. They have homed in on working conditions and environmental standards at many shipbreaking yards in Asia.

Classification society Germanischer Lloyd (GL) recently organised a forum in Hamburg where representatives of the shipyards, owners, and supply industry discussed how shipowners and yards can prepare for the new requirements.

GL environmental engineer and ship recycling specialist Henning Gramann ran through the details of the new IMO requirements. The core element of the convention for shipyards and ship owners will be a list of potentially hazardous materials present in ship structure and equipment, called the 'Inventory of Hazardous Materials' (IHM).

So shipowners will have to keep a list for each of their ships, showing the harmful materials and their precise locations. This will apply to newbuildings as well as ships already in service. 'The list must be kept up to date through the entire operating life of a ship,' Mr Gramann explained. In this way, the planned legislation will affect all shipowners, not just the last owner before the ship is scrapped. This is no small matter and conjures up the image of port state control officers demanding to see this list and poring over it to see if the new replacement galley microwave oven has been duly entered.

The GL specialist said that it is high time for all parties involved to get prepared. 'The draft of the new convention is due to be completed next year, so that the ratification process will begin early in 2009,' he said.

The exact date when the law can come into effect depends on the coming into force conditions that still have to be laid down. Mr Gramann expects the convention to come into force in about 2013. He warned: 'However, it is obvious that most of today's ships, and all newbuilds above 500 gross tonnage, will fall under this regime, and when it is finally valid internationally, action must be taken without delay.'

So GL, at least, fully expects the convention to be retrospective, and it is also clear that it will generate a considerable administrative burden on the owner and, probably, on ships' staff.

It seems that suppliers of just about anything for a vessel will have to prepare a Suppliers Declaration of Conformity and a Materials Declarations providing details of the hazardous materials contained in their products. These documents will form the basis for the ship specific Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) which will be developed by the shipyard.

Lack of information

GL lead auditor Jens Rogge said: 'Not all required information is readily available and suppliers are not always willing to give details of components.'

It seems that the new ship recycling rules will be an opportunity for the classification societies to offer a new service.

GL will offer an inventory certification for new and existing ships as well as an IHM database for long-time, continuous support. The new HM Monitoring System was explained to GL's Wiegand Grafe who showed how the tool helps to keep the inventory list up to date at all times. 'The system,' Dr Grafe claimed, 'will make preparation and maintenance of the inventory easier for all parties involved.'

GL said: 'Participating owners were sceptical about the manageability of a frequently updated inventory.'

That is hardly surprising given that they had just been told of a brand new and onerous administrative burden that is about to come their way.

They wanted to know who is responsible for gathering the requested information and who will verify its validity.

Mr Gramann admitted: 'The compilation of all hazardous material requires considerable effort. At Germanischer Lloyd, we try to optimise the process as designed by the IMO to the maximum possible and are looking straight forward to offer services in line with the future legal requirements, and not according to outdated and inefficient guidelines.'

GL estimates that if the convention comes into force in 2013 as expected, about 50,000 ships will fall under the new regulation. That means a lucrative new line of business for the classification societies.

The looming growth in demand is, GL admits, the main 'but not the only reason' why it is advising its customers to start compiling an Inventory of Hazardous Materials and to start certification sooner than later.

GL said: 'The list can also represent a competitive advantage. Environmental protection is becoming increasingly a matter of image. And once a shipowner has made a commitment to quality management and thus also to continuous improvement of his environmental standards, he can present such a certificate as a bonus.'

All this is likely to be news to many Asian shipowners, and not especially welcome news. They may be wondering how all this has been put together without it becoming a major talking point in the shipping industry. That is a good question. The answer may have something to do with the mass of other regulations that have been visited on the industry recently.

But it is probably far too late to do much about this one. Unless governments suddenly decide they don't like the draft convention, it seems that this convention is a done deal.

Related articles in Singapore: reduce, reuse, recycle
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