Under the amendments, ship breaking companies will have to store radioactive and other hazardous waste in a temporary facility at their yards before getting rid of it through registered recyclers

Ship breaking companies will have to store radioactive and other hazardous waste in a temporary facility at their yards before getting rid of it through registered recyclers under amendments proposed to the Shipbreaking Code 2013.

The ministry of shipping released the proposed amendments, which are in line with the requirements of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), on Thursday for public feedback.

Ship breakers will also need to appoint a safety officer to ensure the protocols are met.

Hazardous waste like lead-acid batteries and other lead-bearing waste needs to be disposed of through registered recyclers. Electric and electronic waste will have to be recycled through registered E-waste recyclers.

“Apart from these amendments, we have also asked Bureau of India Standards (BIS) to frame a steel classification for us. Based on this, the steel would be classified as the one that could be converted into secondary steel and the other which needs to be discarded,” a shipping ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The shipping ministry also proposed reducing the time for submitting documents from three weeks to seven days before the expected arrival of a ship for recycling. The documents have to be perused by the state maritime board/port authority, state pollution control board and the customs department.

The ship recycler or owner would also be required to submit an assessment of hazardous wastes in the structure of the ship and on board as far as practicable by reference to the ship’s drawings, technical specifications, stores and manifest, in consultation with the shipbuilder, equipment manufacturer and others.

These amendments have been introduced after the shipping ministry’s consultations on the first draft of the amendments last year drew flak from environmental groups.

Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance (TWA), an environmental group fighting against health hazards and pollution caused by shipbreaking, said the UN Special Rapporteur had recommended an independent study to assess the actual and potential adverse effects caused by the discharge of hazardous substances and materials into the natural environment, but it had never been done.

“It is an established fact under Basel Convention’s technical guidelines and recent European Commission’s technical guidelines that a beach is not an appropriate place for hazardous industrial activity and hazardous waste management. However, we continue to do so,” Krishna said.

He said end-of-life toxic ships are entering Indian waters in a myriad disguises, exposing vulnerabilities in India’s maritime and environmental security.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s assessment report on shipbreaking in India reads: “…in India ships are dismantled on beaches, a method commonly referred to as “beaching”. This method of ship dismantling fails to comply with generally accepted norms and standards on environmental protection. Although very little work has been carried out to assess its environmental impact, the dismantling of ships on sandy beaches without any containment other than the hull of the ship itself appears to have caused high levels of contamination of soil, air, and marine and freshwater resources in many South Asian countries, and to have adversely affected the livelihood of local communities surrounding the shipbreaking facilities, which often rely on agriculture and fishing for their subsistence”.

(This news story is from Live Mint)