Within the expansive domain of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria, the maritime sector is navigating a critical juncture. Amid a global upsurge in environmental consciousness, shipowners are increasingly compelled to integrate sustainable practices, with a particular emphasis on the ethical dimensions of ship recycling.
Historically deep-rooted, the shipping industry is witnessing a significant transformation, driven by a robust commitment to the environmental aspect of ESG. This shift is symbolised by vigorous decarbonization initiatives, reflecting a widespread consensus that the environmental repercussions of shipping are a collective international responsibility.
As the sector evolves, the practice of ship recycling has become representative of the adoption of circular economy principles. Nevertheless, this area has come under scrutiny, particularly in regions such as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, due to environmental concerns.
A ray of optimism shines through with the introduction of the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2009, set to be enacted in less than 18 months. Ship recycling yards adhering to HKC standards, as defined by the IMO, have emerged as standards of eco-friendly ship recycling. These ship recycling yards are dedicated to minimizing environmental impact throughout the recycling process.
Pioneering this approach is the meticulous management of hazardous materials, a vital component in safeguarding environmental integrity. The Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) serves as a cornerstone document, cataloging and quantifying hazardous substances present on vessels. Workers at HKC-compliant yards skillfully handle, store, and dispose of these materials, in collaboration with officially sanctioned facilities, ensuring their safe disposal.
For example, in India, the Gujarat Maritime Board has commissioned Gujarat Enviro Protection & Infrastructure Ltd (GEPIL) to oversee the handling of hazardous materials, underscoring a persistent dedication to reducing environmental harm. GEPIL's initiatives include asbestos-specific landfills and innovative practices like repurposing separated oil for incineration and reusing water for eco-friendly projects.
The ship recycling process in HKC compliant yards also emphasizes the cutting of ships' steel structural blocks and the extraction of steel plates with precision. The use of oxygen and LPG gases, along with impermeable solid concrete flooring, ensures that the environmental footprint is minimized during the cutting and recycling stages.
An essential facet of sustainable ship recycling is its remarkably reduced carbon footprint. Studies indicate that the carbon emissions associated with ship recycling are four times less than those produced by conventional steel manufacturing processes. This striking difference underscores the environmental efficiency of recycling steel from ships, aligning seamlessly with global efforts to mitigate climate change and reduce industrial carbon emissions.
South Asian nations are at the forefront of sustainable ship recycling, boasting a substantial number of HKC-compliant facilities. These facilities, equipped with impermeable flooring to minimize soil contact, are a testament to the industry's commitment to sustainability.
In summary, shipowners now have a definitive opportunity to positively influence the 'Environment' pillar of ESG by choosing HKC-compliant recycling yards. The journey towards sustainable seas demands a unified commitment from the maritime community. As shipowners embark on this greener trajectory, the integration of environmentally sound practices is not just a duty but a fundamental aspect of navigating the ESG landscape.