Shipbreaking yard in Bhatiari, Bangladesh. Photo by Naquib Hossain
International agreements coming back into fashion?
In the same week that the UK government ratified the ILO Forced Labour Protocol after pressure from the TUC and CBI, the Transport Minister has signalled that he will ratify the Hong Kong Convention on shipbreaking once certain legislative steps have been concluded. The Hong Kong Convention is an important instrument which would improve health and safety in one of the world’s most dangerous and unregulated sectors.
Among other elements of the Convention (full name: The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009), it requires that ships to be sent for recycling will be required to carry an inventory of hazardous materials. An appendix to the Convention provides a list of hazardous materials the installation or use of which is prohibited or restricted in shipyards, ship repair yards, and ships of Parties to the Convention. Ships will be required to have an initial survey to verify the inventory of hazardous materials, additional surveys during the life of the ship, and a final survey prior to recycling.
“Once the provisions of the EU Regulation have been fully implemented, our focus will shift to ratification of the Hong Kong International Convention as we will then have all the necessary domestic legislation in place.”
The decision has been welcomed by IndustriALL, the global federation of manufacturing unions, which has been running a campaign to get the 2009 Convention ratified by enough countries to come into force. Kan Matsuzaki, director of shipbuilding and shipbreaking at IndustriALL, said:
“We welcome the British Government’s willingness to support the Hong Kong Convention and we expect the Government to accelerate its ratification process. The Convention cannot come into force until it has been ratified by at least 15 countries representing 40 per cent of gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping. The UK could play important role in the process as one of the major ship-owner states in the world.”
Credit to Ian Waddell and Unite for this step forward for some of the most vulnerable workers on the planet.