The IMO does not have any straightforward mandate to solve the environmental problems caused by the recycling of ships. Secretary General William A. O’Neil believes that both IMO and the classification societies should encourage ship designers, builders and operators to take into account a vessel’s ultimate dismantling and recycling. The end of a ship’s life has seldom been given consideration when it is designed and built. Now, however, environmental groups are putting pressure on shipowners and the authorities to ensure that shipbreaking takes place in safe, environmentally sound conditions.
"The rules and routines safeguarding the workers, and requirements protecting the natural environment surrounding the yards, are up to each individual country. The IMO cannot and should not be involved in these," emphasises Secretary General O’Neil. But he adds: "On the other hand, the IMO, together with shipping companies, classification societies and the shipbuilding industry should show an interest and take initiatives to ensure that a ship’s path to its final end is better arranged.
A ship’s death should be prepared for even before its birth. The ship’s design and construction must take into account how dismantling and recycling can be carried out. During the ship’s operational phase, too, choices and decisions must not only take short-term results into account, they must also have a long-term perspective that includes the recycling process."