India being one of the world's largest ship recycling industries has acceded to the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships ("Convention"). This Convention aims at ensuring that recycling of ships that have reached the end of their operational lives do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment. India, being a member state and having acceded to the said Convention, the Government of India has recently enacted the Recycling of Ships Act, 2019 ("Act"). The Act aims lay down regulatory framework to the ship recycling industry by setting certain standards and statutory mechanism for enforcement of such standards and other related matters. Key highlights of the Act with respect to ship recycling are as follows:
APPLICABILITY OF THE ACT
The Act is applicable to the following categories of ships and recycling facilities:
- any new or existing ship which is registered in India;
- any new ship which is required to be registered in India, wherever it may be
- ships entering a port or terminal in India, or the territorial waters of India;
- any warship, or other ship owned and operated by an administration and used on government non-commercial service, and
- ship recycling facilities operating in India or within any area falling under the
exclusive territorial jurisdiction of India.
SHIP RECYCLING AND RECYCLING FACILITIES
The Act defines ship recycling as the dismantling of a ship at a facility to recover its components and materials for reuse, while taking care of the hazardous material so produced. It includes associated operations such as storage and treatment of materials and components on site. Under the provisions of this Act, ships can be recycled only in authorised recycling facilities.
An application to authorise a facility must be submitted to the competent authority along with a ship recycling facility management plan and along with a prescribed fee. A facility shall receive an authorization only when the competent authority is satisfied that the facility has the infrastructure and it follows all the specified standards prescribed under the Act. The certificate of authorisation is valid for a period as specified in the certificate but not exceeding a period of five years. Any contravention of the provisions of the Act is punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, or both.
Each ship recycler is mandated to maintain adequate measures for emergency preparedness and response, safety, health, training, and welfare of workers as per the Factories Act, 1948. The Act also mandates that the ship recycler to provide insurance coverage for all its regular and temporary workers.
A ship owner must apply to the national authority for a ready for recycling certificate before commencing the recycling process. At the time of application for recycling certificate, the ship recycler must provide to the national authority with a recycling plan for the Authority's approval. Such recycling plan need to ensure safe and environmentally sound removal and management of hazardous materials from a ship, and comply with all specified and applicable environmental regulations. Additionally, they must also ensure that no environmental damage is caused due to such recycling. Upon receiving such an application, the authority shall inspect the ship physically and grant its permission. Any ship shall be recycled upon it obtains written permission from the Authority. The competent authority is authorised to grant permission upon physically inspecting the ship.
Every ship recycler shall ensure the following:
- ensure safe and environmentally sound removal and management of hazardous materials from a ship;
- comply with such requirements related to basic infrastructure facilities including those related to environmentally safe disposal or management of wastes and hazardous materials, in such manner as may be specified by the regulations.
- that there is no damage caused to the environment in any form due to the recycling activities at the ship recycling facility;
- take necessary measures for protection of the environment.
In case of oil spill in the facility, the ship recycler shall be served with a notice by the competent authority to take remedial action in such manner as may be specified by the regulations.
In case of an oil spill or any environmental damage, a ship recycler will be punishable with:
- a fine of up to five lakh rupees in case of no response within 12 hours of issue of the first notice,
- a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh in case of no response within 24 hours of issue of the second notice, and
- imprisonment of up to three months, and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh in case of no response within 24 hours of issue of the third notice.
The ship recycler, on receipt of a copy of permission to recycle the ship, shall issue a statement of acceptance to the ship owner under intimation to the competent authority in such form and manner as may be specified by the regulations and thereafter the ship owner may get the ship de-registered.
Decisions of the Competent Authority may be appealed with the National Authority within 30 days of receiving the decision. Decisions of the National Authority may be appealed with the central government within 30 days of receiving the decision.
When a ship is recycled in accordance with the provisions of this Act, a statement of completion containing such particulars as may be specified by the regulations shall be submitted by the Ship Recycler to the Competent Authority.
Law laid down in Conservation Action Trust & Others Vs Union of India & Others
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) vide letter dated November 2, 2016 granted Environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearance ("EC") for 'upgradation of existing ship recycling yard at Alang Sosiya, Gujarat for undertaking safe and environmentally sound ship recycling operations by M/s Gujarat Maritime Board'. This EC was challenged by the Mumbai-based NGO - Conservation Action Trust by filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), challenging the 'beaching' method claiming it to be hazardous for the environment and the workers before the National Green Tribunal ("NGT"). The NGT is a specialized body established by the Central government to deal with environment related issues and therefore it is equipped with necessary expertise to handle environmental issued/ disputes.
The Alang Upgradation Project consists of upgradation of a total of 167 plots in two phases, constructing two floating drydocks for pre-cleaning of ships before beaching, and allocating additional 15 numbers (100 M x 90 M) of recycling plots. The project includes the upgradation of a waste oil treatment unit and incinerator at the existing Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) site at Alang. 1
In order to ascertain the environmental impact of the project the NGT appointed an independent auditor i.e. National Institute of Oceanography ("NIO") to carry out environmental audit at Alang. The NIO confirmed that there is no severe impact on the environment due to beaching methods employed for recycling of ships. The water quality, sediment quality, biological characteristics, pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) are almost in agreement with water quality standards suggesting a healthy coastal environment. Additionally, the audit observed that the impact of ship recycling activities on phosphates' concentration is not visible. In short, the ecology of the coastal water of Alang is seen similar to that of surrounding areas of Bhavnagar & Dahej, and it compares well with earlier studies of 2007-08 in Alang area. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has approved the 'Beaching' method of ship recycling in the world's largest ship recycling cluster, at Alang, India, on Friday, 27th November 2020.
The NGT has directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to establish a five-member committee to improve the environment, health, and welfare of the workers. The committee shall include experts from the Institute of Occupational Health, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour. The committee must prepare a report on improving the environment, health and welfare of the workers at Alang within six months. The order recommended that upgradation of recycling yards is essential and there should be periodic monitoring of coastal ecology every year. Regular monitoring of marine diversity and bioaccumulation of metals in the marine organisms of Alang should be done. Any adverse impact on the coastal ecology, including subtidal and intertidal zone, should be brought to the notice of the concerned authority's notice to take appropriate future care measures.
It has also directed MoEF&CC committee to monitor compliance on the beaching method and compliance for Coastal Regulatory Zones (CRZ) Regulations at least twice a year.
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