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63 Governments Agree to Greener Ship Recycling

imoSixty-three governments approved a U.N. convention in Hong Kong that makes the recycling of the world’s freighters, luxury liners and oil tankers safer and greener, reports CNBC.com.

The pact drafted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires higher standards at recycling yards primarily located in South Asia, and will go into force two years after 15 countries formally ratify it, according to CNBC.com.

The 63 countries including those with ship recycling industries agreed to limit the amounts of hazardous materials that ships are built with and require older ships to be recycled in yards that meet certain environmental standards, reports CNBC. The convention also requires recycling facilities to implement measures that improve safety and reduce explosions and other accidents.

However, a coalition of environmental groups, the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, said in a statement that the International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships would “perpetuate hazardous and polluting shipbreaking on the beaches of the world’s poorest countries, while obstructing transitions to safer and greener forms of ship recycling.”

“The new convention on ship recycling adopted today won’t stop a single toxic ship from being broken on the beach of a developing country,” said Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, in a press release.

According to the coalition, the UN convention fails on several accounts — to uphold the international hazardous waste trade law, the Basel Convention, by permitting companies to export toxic end-of-life ships to developing countries without first pre-cleaning them of toxic materials; legitimizes the beaching method of scrapping toxic ships on ocean beaches; neglects provisions to substitute hazardous materials used in shipbuilding with safer existing alternatives, and rejects funding mechanisms to internalize costs with the polluters and to support use of safer and cleaner operations.

The ship recycling industry is booming because single-hull oil tankers have to be taken out of commission by 2010. Additionally, the financial downturn has reduced the need for container ships, causing some to be taken out of service and scrapped because their owners can’t afford to keep them floating.

Each year, about 1,000 ships are broken down, with most activity in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China and Turkey.

Ship recycling industries in the United States and Europe desire tougher standards for competitors in poor countries.

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