In the third week of May 2023, a delegation led by the Japanese Shipowners Association (JSA) visited Bangladesh, the world's largest destination for ship recycling. The delegation included officers from JSA, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), and ClassNK. Representatives from leading Japanese shipowners, including K Line, MOL, NYK Lines, and NS United, were also part of the delegation.
This marked JSA's third visit to Bangladesh, but the agenda was different this time. Following a high-level summit attended by the heads of both nations in Tokyo at the end of April 2023, a Memorandum of Cooperation was exchanged between Japan's MLIT and Bangladesh's Ministry of Industries in the field of Ship Recycling. JSA was keen on strengthening cooperation between the two nations. The JSA delegation met with officers from the Ministry of Industries and expressed JSA's willingness to support the early entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention (HKC). They also explained the importance of Bangladesh's ratification, which would accelerate the HKC's entry into force.
During their visit to Chittagong, the delegation had constructive dialogues with the Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association (BSBRA), emphasizing the importance of early ratification of the HKC and its positive impact on environmental conservation. Dr. Anil Sharma, Founder and CEO of GMS, a renowned name in the ship recycling industry, was also a special guest during their meeting with BSBRA. They also visited six recycling yards to observe current recycling practices and assess the status of infrastructure. The delegation acknowledged the commitment displayed by yard owners in developing modern HKC-compliant yards. Ship recyclers also requested support for the development of a Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF) and an increased number of vessels from Japanese shipowners to facilitate the sustained development and expansion of green recycling capacity in Chittagong.
JSA is willing to continue regular dialogue with recyclers to encourage the expansion of the number of HKC-compliant yards in Chittagong, which will eventually benefit shipowners worldwide who choose to send their vessels to Chittagong.
ClassNK, the Japanese classification society, has played a key role in providing technical assistance to recyclers for upgrading their yards and establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in accordance with HKC guidelines. After undergoing a rigorous auditing process, ClassNK has issued Statements of Compliance (SOC) to three yards in Chittagong.
The overall impact of the Japan-Bangladesh Summit and the JSA delegation visit is that ship recycling activity has been recategorized from 'Red' to 'Orange' code. Bangladesh's regulatory bodies have assured the completion
of domestic procedures for the ratification of the HKC in the shortest possible time.
This is indeed a firm step towards the future entry into force of the HKC.
Ship recycling activities provide essential steel for the infrastructure development of Bangladesh and generate direct and indirect employment for over 200,000 workers.
Over the past five decades, ship recycling has been carried out in Chittagong, with over 40 active recycling facilities. These yards have often faced criticism from various stakeholders due to poor infrastructure, unsafe working conditions, and environmentally hazardous practices.
However, circumstances have changed in the past six years. In 2009, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the Hong Kong Convention and developed guidelines for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling. Although the convention is not yet in force, global ship recyclers have voluntarily complied with the HKC guidelines.
Bangladesh has embraced the HKC and has made significant progress. In October 2017, only one yard in Chittagong received an HKC Statement of Compliance from a leading classification society. As of May 2023, there are three HKC-compliant yards with world-class infrastructure, and at least four yards are in the process of achieving HKC compliance.
These HKC-compliant yards in Chittagong boast several notable improvements. One such improvement is the installation of 100% impermeable flooring, which ensures that fluids such as oil, bilge water, and chemicals can be easily contained and cleaned. Additionally, measures have been implemented to collect and properly dispose of rust particles, paint chips, dust, and metal slag generated during gas cutting.
To facilitate the recycling process, the yards are equipped with barge-mounted cranes that enable the lifting of steel blocks from the primary cutting zone and their transfer to the secondary cutting zone on the impermeable floor. This minimizes contact with the intertidal zone. Crawler cranes with lifting capacities ranging from 150 to 100 tons are also utilized for safe shifting of blocks within the cutting zone. Furthermore, magnetic cranes with a lifting capacity of 2 tons assist in stacking and loading recovered materials from the ship.
To ensure the safety of workers, winches with a capacity of 75 tons are utilized to firmly hold the hull undergoing recycling, preventing drifting. These lifting gears undergo periodic load testing in accordance with the guidelines of classification societies.
In terms of worker well-being, the yards provide full-time ambulance services and medical facilities. The QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, and Environment) teams in these yards consist of qualified and experienced personnel such as Master Mariners, Chief Engineers, and Naval Architects. Workers are provided with free meals, accommodation, safety training, and annual health checkups. The BSBRA-operated training institute offers free safety and skill-based training to workers, further emphasizing their commitment to safety.
In summary, the ship recyclers in Chittagong are dedicated to progressive development in sustainable ship recycling practices. The international community has recognized and praised the efforts and investments made by these recyclers.
The ratification of the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships by Bangladesh's regulatory bodies will have a significant impact on ship recycling activities globally. Bangladesh, along with India, Pakistan, and Turkey, is one of the major states engaged in ship recycling worldwide. While Turkey ratified the HKC in February 2019 and India followed suit in November 2019, Pakistan's recycling activities are currently on hold.
As of now, out of the three conditions required for the HKC to come into force, the first condition has been met. Twenty states have ratified the HKC, exceeding the minimum requirement of 15 ratifications.
The second condition necessitates that the combined merchant fleet of accession states constitutes not less than 40% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant fleet.
The third condition requires that the combined annual ship recycling volume of the accession states over the past 10 years amounts to not less than 3% of the gross tonnage of the combined merchant fleet of the same states.
The year 2022 in which ship recycling activities were lowest since 2007. This would decrease the combined annual ship recycling volume (for past 10 years) of accession states to less than 3% of combined merchant fleet of the same states and hence the threshold value required for meeting the third condition will increase. Therefore, it is essential that Bangladesh to ratify HKC within first half of the 2023 before IMO’s assessment considers the volume of ships recycled in 2022.
Once Bangladesh ratifies the HKC, the Marshall Islands or Liberia flag states will need to ratify it as well to meet all three conditions for the HKC to come into force. According to the HKC, the convention will take effect two years after all three criteria have been met.
The ratification of the HKC by Dhaka will significantly impact the domestic yards located in Chittagong. Currently, out of the 40+ active yards, only three comply with HKC guidelines. Therefore, non-compliant yards will face increasing pressure to upgrade their infrastructure and operations to meet the HKC standards. This will lead to a transformation of the ship recycling industry in Bangladesh, promoting safer and more environmentally sustainable practices.
In conclusion, the recent visit of the JSA delegation to Bangladesh and the progress made in HKC compliance mark a significant milestone for the ship recycling industry in Chittagong.
The commitment of Japanese shipowners, the cooperation between Japan's MLIT and Bangladesh's Ministry of Industries, and the efforts of Bangladeshi ship recyclers have laid the foundation for a sustainable and responsible ship recycling sector. With the ratification of the HKC on the horizon, the industry is poised for further growth and transformation, benefiting not only Bangladesh but also the global maritime community.