63 gov’ts approve UN convention on ship recycling

Sixty-three governments approved a U.N. convention Friday that aims to make the business of scrapping the world’s freighters, luxury liners and oil tankers safer and greener by requiring higher standards at recycling yards mostly located in South Asia.

But critics led by a coalition of 107 environmental and rights groups complained the International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships doesn’t go far enough. They want governments to ban the practice of breaking down ships along beaches and require ship owners to remove all hazardous materials before sending them for recycling. An estimated 1,000 ships are broken down each year, mostly in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and to a lesser degree in China and Turkey. Sending the ships to the developing world saves the industry money but exposes an army of poorly trained workers to deadly hazards. Dozens die each year in explosions and accidents while others are sickened later in life after coming in contact with asbestos and other substances. The pact drafted by the International Maritime Organization will go into force two years after 15 countries, representing 40 percentage of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, formally ratify it.

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