Lok Sabha

December 3, 2019

Pratima Mondal speaks on The Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019

Pratima Mondal speaks on The Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019


Thank you Madam, I rise to speak on The Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019. The proposed Bill seeks to frame a new law for ship recycling in tune with global standards. This will enable us to accede to the Hong Kong convention that enlists environmentally sound condition for ship recycling. Though developing countries like India play a dominant role in the field of ship recycling, it is imperative to maintain standards for environmental protection. 

Madam, according to the international federation for human rights, ship breaking exemplifies both the potential and the dangers of an increasingly globalised economy. Ship breaking, ship dismantling, recycling and scrapping are synonymously used to define the process of taking a ship apart. The practices are subject to health, safety and environmental concerns. 

The method of ship dismantling in areas like in Alang, Gujarat is commonly referred to as DC, this means deliberately crashing ships on to the beach, so that it can be dismantled during low tide. This process is controversial and poses a risk to the environment as well as human health and safety.  

As it has done without the use of concrete covering or any containment other than the hull of the ship itself. Around 96 per cent of the ship breaking yard in these developing countries, including India, apply the DC method. In the Bill nowhere mentioned about the process that will be adopted by the government for recycling of ships. 

This method includes scraping and disposing of thousands of tonnes of steel by workers using minimum tools and safety precautions. The process involves high risk possibility.

According to an NGO Safety4Sea, at least eight workers died in the year 2017. The government must have an approach in adopting safer method for ship recycling. 

The problem in Alang was first documented by Greenpeace in the year 1998, following actions by local NGOs. The Supreme Court issued several rulings, demanding the improvement of the industry in order to bring it in line with national and international requirements for safe working conditions, environmental protection and wet trade law. 

The Government responded with the adoption of the Ship Recycling Code in 2013. The Gujarat Maritime Boat Setup of Wet Reception Facility workers also received a very basic training. Still the working and the living conditions of the ship breaking yards, as well as environmental protection standards in Alang remains alarming in the ports.

In the proposed legislation just a single line has been mentioned that workers need to be protected. It has no provisions laid for the level and types of training that should be provided. Sir, standard of training must be an important subject of the proposed Bill and not just a single sentence. Also, the occupational health hazards have not been specified in this Bill. My request to the government is to make the laws more effective, by providing provisions within the Bill itself and not leaving it up to the competent authorities.

This is the reason why our parliamentary system has Standing Committees. Or else sceneries like the one I am about to put forward will be common. Sir, I would like to bring to the notice of this House on September 12 and 16 this year, a Dutch documentary highlighted how environmental and safety norms are openly disregarded at Gujarat Alang ship breaking yard. 

Stationed at the Yetagun gas field, Myanmar second largest, Yetagun SSO started operating on May 7, 2000. On September 2018, after the Yetagun had reached India, three non-profits, namely Ship Breaking Platforms, Zero Mercury Working Goods and European Environmental Bureau jointly sent a warning letter to Gujarat Maritime Board informing it about the high mercury level. 

The warning letter noted that there was mercury in the ballast water – 300 ppm in 4,500 tonnes of ballast water, pipes and steel body, 1.4 Lakh ppm of the ship. Such mercury concentration could damage the central nervous system, kidney and liver impairment, reproductive and development disorder, defect in sitters and learning deficits, the letter warned.

The letter asked the GMB to make sure that the 2013 Minamata Convention, of which India is a signatory, was followed. The convention is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from the emissions of mercury and mercury compounds. The warning letter also noted that mercury contamination could also pollute the intertidal zone. But the GMD permitted the breaking on October 3, 2018. 

According to Section 8, Clause 1 of the proposed Bill, the existing ships on the date of commencement of this Act, and for which the certificate on inventory of hazardous materials had not been issued, the owner of such ships shall make an application to the national authority within a period of five years from the date of commencement of this Act. Sir, allotting five years for merely applying for a certificate is a lot of time. This will give the existing ships the liberty to carry on their functions,even if it is hazardous. The number of years must be reduced. 

Again, Section 17(3) states that ‘where the competent authority fails to convey its decisions regarding the approval of the ship recycling plan within 15 days of its submission, the plan should be deemed to have been approved.’ This is a severe loophole. No plan must be deemed approved automatically. Instead, stringent laws must be made to dispose the approval within a fixed time frame. Not maintaining this timeframe should be penalised. Due to the proposed automatic approval of the plan, such plan of getting permission which are not supposed to. 

Thus, I request the government to amend this  provision according to Section 36 only. Firstly, the Central Government, secondly the national authority and thirdly the competent authorities complaint will be given cognizance. This is absolutely absolutely unfair. The workers of the yard are denied rights of registering a lawful complaint, which can be questioned in court. Also, the NGOs working in this area are overlooked. Both of them should be brought under Section 36 of the Bill.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the intent of the proposed Bill is very noble but the legislation is very weak. This seriously needs to be worked upon. With this, I conclude my speech, with the hope that the hon’ble minister will take care of this.

Thank you.