In 2021, India set an ambitious goal to double its ship recycling capacity by 2024, with the aim of generating 150,000 jobs and increasing its ship recycling market share from 30 percent to 50 percent. To support this goal, India passed the Recycling of Ships Act and acceded to the Hong Kong International Convention. India’s plan for ship recycling suffered a setback when the European Commission announced that it would no longer include yards in its list of approved yards from non-OECD countries. The EU Ship Recycling Regulations remain the gold standard for ship recycling, with the Basel Convention and the Hong Kong Convention serving as the standards for hazardous waste management and downstream waste management.
Recycling can play a critical role in India’s circular economy, as the country’s growing economy is fueled by internal demand rather than exports. However, it should be noted that India’s recycling process is more accurately described as upcycling, as recycled products are used in their physical form to create something new. During the EU Commission’s verification visits to Alang’s shipyards in 2020, several issues related to workers’ health, safety, and the environment were identified as “fixable,” while others seemed beyond the industry’s control.
For any environmental policy, the key to success is local implementation by regional mechanisms. Common environmental legislation for countries at different levels of development, responsibility for degradation, carrying capacity, and social implications is not an ideal solution. Sustainability requires a high level of state commitment, with an agency such as the Gujarat Maritime Board and the State Pollution Control Board working to achieve environmental priorities set by the center/state.
The significant challenges faced by India’s ship recycling industry include environmental impact, monitoring and remediation related to the intertidal zone, the lack of medical facilities, and the biggest challenge of downstream waste management compliance with EU SRR. The yards in India have taken up the challenges head on by pushing for further development beyond any regulatory requirements. Some of the yards have invested heavily on changing the method of ship recycling, and in recent times there have been visits by major shipping lines, who have asked the yards to construct workers accommodation and certification by class on EUSRR.
The work on the ground is still progressing to fill the gaps as far as possible, and the yards in India must be encouraged to push for development. The push for development must come from the top and the actual development must flow bottom up. Arjun Banerjee has worked with cash buyers and ship recyclers for the past seven years and holds degrees in environment and sustainable development and civil engineering, as well as being a lead auditor for ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001 certified by Lloyds Register. India’s ambitious goal to double its ship recycling capacity by 2024 is an important step towards a greener economy, but it must be accompanied by local implementation and investment in order to succeed.