China on the Verge of Reversing Ship Recycling Ban

china ship recycling
Chinese ship recycling yard (file image courtesy ClassNK)

Published Dec 27, 2020 8:47 PM by Ankur Kundu

Ever since China banned the recycling of foreign ships on its shores at the end of 2018, there has been an increasing call in the shipping community to allow the work to resume. Now, it is understood that Beijing is close to reversing its two-year-old decision.

The move will give ship owners better green ship recycling alternatives concerning other South Asian yards, which have been plagued by allegations of pollution and poor labor conditions.

The ban had caused many ships from Chinese companies to land on the shores of Indian yards for recycling, especially Alang. At the time the ban came into effect, China was the fourth-largest shipbreaking nation in the world, with most of the Chinese yards being among the world's greenest when it came to handling pollutants.  

These yards have had to rely on domestic tonnage for business, with the ban causing them to lose much of the market share to Indian and Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards.

"The ban had an enormous impact on the operations of shipbreaking yards in China,” said Xie Dehua, director of the China National Shiprecycling Association (CNSA). When the ban entered into force, he warned that “China’s shipbreaking industry will face turbulent years ahead,” adding that many of the yards would have to pivot to other sectors to stay afloat.

Most of the Chinese yards comply with the Hong Kong Convention and Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) requirements, and some may now be able to apply for certification under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (SRR). 

"Since the IMO started to discuss ship recycling regulations, a number of Chinese ship recycling facilities have upgraded and invested in their facilities enormously,” said Bernard Veldhoven, secretary general of the International Ship Recycling Association (ISRA). “This made these yards the first in the world to recycle ships at the highest standards available on health, safety and environment.”