Japanese owners offer aid for Southeast Asian scrapyards

Japanese Shipowners’ Association provides support for JBU facility in Alang, India, with more aid to come — but one environmentalist group slams the country for its use of sites where workers are exposed to risks

Japanese shipowners have launched a fresh initiative to improve recycling standards in Southeast Asia — but their efforts have encountered criticism from environmentalists.

The Japanese Shipowners' Association (JSA) has agreed to provide support for the Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers’ Union (JBU) joint basic safety training centre in Alang, India, which provides training for around 50 workers at a time.

The JSA said it would contribute basic personal protective equipment to the facility as a starting point. The initial contribution is modest — a provision of dust masks and industrial gloves — but K Line director and JSA recycling chairman Keiji Tomoda says there will be more support to follow.

 He says the JSA’s intention is to "keep a safe and environmentally friendly [recycling] operation” in Alang.

JBU is a part of the IndustriALL Global Union and is keen to promote safe recycling on beaches to protect its members worldwide.

However, Japan is one of a number of developed economies that have been criticised strongly by NGO Shipbreaking Platform in its annual report released this week.

NGO Shipbreaking ranks Japan as the sixth-worst shipping nation in terms of demolishing ships on beaches last year. Greece tops the list with 104 ships scrapped on beaches followed by China, India, Germany and South Korea.

Japanese classification society ClassNK has been providing statements of compliance (SoC) with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC).

One of the most highly regarded yards among those with an SoC is Shree Ram Vessel Scrap, where Maersk Line decided controversially to demolish its end-of-life ships.

NGO Shipbreaking said a journalistic investigation into practices at the yard revealed “breaches of labour rights” and “workers exposed to grave risks”.

It said the ClassNK SoC amounted to “greenwashing”.

In a separate development related to recycling, Denmark ratified the HKC this week. 

Tomoda is calling for shipowners now to encourage recycling nations to ratify the HKC and bring it into force.

“Now is the time for us to strengthen our voices with governments of shiprecycling countries, like China and India as realistic candidates who have indicated their intention to ratify the Hong Kong Convention.” he said.