Bangladesh ratifies Hong Kong Convention for sustainable ship recycling

Bangladesh has followed through with indications given last month at diplomatic meetings and has ratified the Hong Kong Convention on the safe recycling of ships and offshore assets. Bangladesh and India have now both ratified the convention, leaving only Pakistan as the major Asian sub-continent shipbreaker not to have signed up.

The decision by Bangladesh was said to have put the HK Convention, adopted in 2009, “on the brink” of implementation.

Bangladesh is the 20th country to ratify the convention, but the stumbling block to implementation was not the number of states – the 15-state requirement was reached some time ago – but the requirement that the states represent 40% of the world’s merchant shipping by gross tonnage, for it to enter into force.

The HK Convention aims to reduce risks to health, safety and the environment and stipulates ships sent for recycling carry an inventory of all hazardous materials on board. Recycling facilities are required to provide a Ship Recycling Plan, specifying how each vessel will be recycled, based on its particular characteristics and its inventory of hazardous materials. Uptake has been slow. By 2019 the Convention had not really made much progress, but in that year India and Turkey – two major shipbreaking nations – ratified it. Bangladesh is the biggest destination for ship breaking, representing about a third of ships recycled. South Asia accounts for recycling 80% of the world’s ship tonnage.

Bangladesh has been working on improving workplace safety at its shipbreaking yards, as well as processes for the handling of hazardous materials. The shipyards in Chittagong have recently been upgraded, with two additional end users receiving class NK HKC accreditation. That brought the total number of accredited entities to three.

However, implementation is not there yet. The next could be to secure flag state approval from either the Marshall Islands or Liberia.