Environmental issues took centre stage at IMO during the recent 48th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). Delegates from more than 80 countries discussed a range of topics relating to the protection of the marine environment from pollution by ships. The work progressed in several key areas, including ship recycling, ballast water management and greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Draft IMO Guidelines on ship recycling were discussed in detail, with a view to producing a final draft for adoption by the next IMO Assembly in 2003.
The document called "Green Passport" for ships is envisaged to accompany the ship throughout its working life and contain an inventory of all materials potentially hazardous to human health or the environment, used in the construction of a ship. Produced by the shipyard at the construction stage and passed to the purchaser of the vessel, the document would be in a format that would enable any subsequent changes in materials or equipment to be recorded. Successive owners of the ship would maintain the accuracy of the Green Passport and incorporate into it all relevant design and equipment changes, with the final owner delivering it, with the vessel, to the recycling yard.
The draft guidelines note that, in the process of recycling ships, virtually nothing goes to waste. The materials and equipment are almost entirely reused. Steel is reprocessed to become, for instance, reinforcing rods for use in the construction industry or as corner castings and hinges for containers. Ships' generators are reused ashore. Batteries find their way into the local economy. Hydrocarbons on board become reclaimed oil products to be used as fuel in rolling mills or brick kilns; light fittings find further use on land etc. Furthermore, new steel production from recycled steel requires only one third of the energy used for steel production from raw materials. Recycling makes a positive contribution to the global conservation of energy and resources and, in the process, employs a large, if predominantly unskilled, workforce. Properly handled, ship recycling is, without question, a "green" industry.