• Safe ship scrapping possible in EU – Dimas

    The EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas has promised an EU strategy on the environmentally and socially responsible scrapping of ships.

    What to do with warships, ferries and cargo ships at the end of their life has proved extremely difficult. The costs of breaking up vessels in Asia are vastly cheaper than in the developed world, but safety and environmental standards there are generally very poor. Dimas highlighted a recent British initiative, which is aimed at guaranteeing proper disposal of ships even after they have been sold to owners outside the EU, as a potential basis for an EU strategy. He said: “I see a possible role for member states to ensure that ships can be dismantled safety at the end of their lives in facilities within the EU. This could be done by subsidising the development of recycling capacity.” Dimas said the shipping industry should consider voluntary measures, or risk having obligations imposed by the EU. The International Chamber of Shipping said the economics of breaking up old ships were too heavily weighted in favour of scrapping in Asia. “I admire Mr Dimas’s commitment, but attention should concentrate on raising standards at Asian facilities,” a spokesperson said. MARITIME STRATEGY Meanwhile the Commission has proposed banning EU-registered single-hull oil tankers from transporting heavy grade oil anywhere in the world. Currently heavy grade oil cannot be held in single-hull tankers in EU ports, but it can be transported under an exemption in the Marpol Convention. In another development, the Commission is due to present a green paper this month setting out a new EU maritime policy. The fisheries commissioner Joe Borg is responsible for the initiative, and his paper is expected to include fisheries, shipbuilding, tourism, energy, environmental protection and maritime safety. The aim is to bring together various sectors that are currently dealt with separately, to secure “EU economic leadership in maritime activities”. However, the last EU action on maritime issues, the thematic strategy on the protection and conversation of the marine environment (a daughter directive of the sixth Environmental Action Plan), was heavily criticised for not being ambitious enough. • The Commission is recommending that ports should provide electricity for ships to use when not at sea. The idea is to allow ships to switch off their engines, many of which burn high-sulphur fuel. Though only a recommendation, it calls on governments to offer economic incentives to port operators. Promoting shore-side electricity, preferably from renewable energy, was an objective in last year’s air quality thematic strategy on air quality. This news story is taken from the May 2006 edition of T&E Bulletin.