The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019, by voice vote.
The Bill introduced by the Minister of State for Shipping, Mansukh Mandaviya, seeks to restrict the use of hazardous material on ships and regulates the recycling of ships by establishing a National Authority.
Ship recycling refers to dismantling of a ship to recover the components and materials for reuse, and taking care of the hazardous material so produced. It includes associated operations such as storage and treatment of materials and components on site.
Salient Features of the Bill
As per the government, the Bill was necessary since the erstwhile Ship Breaking Code (Revised), 2013, did not provide penalties for contravention of the provisions of the Code, nor did it deal with the restrictions and prohibitions on use of hazardous materials on ships. The Bill was also an outcome of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009, to which India is a signatory.
Applicability: The Bill will apply to: (i) any new or existing ship which is registered in India, (ii) ships entering a port or terminal in India, or the territorial waters of India, (iii) any warship, or other ship owned and operated by an administration and used on government non-commercial service, and (iv) ship recycling facilities operating in India.
Use of Hazardous Material: The recycled ships will not use prohibited hazardous materials and the National Authority will be the nodal agency to administer, supervise and monitor the recycling operations.
The Act stipulates that owner of every new ship will make an application to the National Authority to obtain a certificate on the inventory of hazardous materials. Existing ship owners will apply for the certificate within five years of the commencement of the Act. The certificate must be renewed every five years and should be maintained and updated through the life of the ship to reflect any changes in the ship's structure and equipment. The certificate may be suspended for various reasons such as the ship not complying with the particulars of the certificate, or not maintaining the inventory of hazardous materials properly. Using hazardous materials in a ship will be punishable with imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine of up to five lakh rupees, or both.
These requirements will not apply to: (i) any warship, or other ship owned and operated by an administration and used on government non-commercial service, and (ii) ships with internal volume less than 500 tonne
Recycling facilities: Ships will be recycled only in authorised recycling facilities. An application to authorise such a facility must be submitted to the competent authority along with a ship recycling facility management plan, and prescribed fee. Existing facilities must apply for authorisation within 60 days of the commencement of the Act. The certificate of authorisation will be valid for a period not exceeding five years. Contravening these provisions will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, or both.
Each Ship Recycler must maintain adequate measures for emergency preparedness and response, safety, health, training, and welfare of workers as per the Factories Act, 1948. It must also provide insurance coverage for the regular and temporary workers.
Recycling process: A ship owner must apply to the National Authority for a ready for recycling certificate before recycling his ship. The Ship Recycler must prepare a ship recycling plan which should be approved by the Competent Authority. Each ship will be recycled after obtaining written permission from the Competent Authority, which will grant the same after physically inspecting the ship.
Every ship recycler must: (i) ensure safe and environmentally sound removal and management of hazardous materials from a ship, and (ii) comply with the specified environmental regulations. They must also ensure that no environmental damage is caused due to such recycling. On contravening these provisions, the ship recycler will be liable to pay environmental damages and cleanup operation compensation as prescribed. In case of an oil spill, a ship recycler will be punishable with: (i) a fine of up to five lakh rupees in case of no response within 12 hours of issue of the first notice, (ii) a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh in case of no response within 24 hours of issue of the second notice, and (iii) imprisonment of up to three months, and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh in case of no response within 24 hours of issue of the third notice.
Appeals: Decisions of the Competent Authority may be appealed with the National Authority within 30 days of receiving the decision. Decisions of the National Authority may be appealed with the central government within 30 days of receiving the decision.
During discussion on the Bill, most of the members expressed that recycling of ships is a hazardous process, affecting both human life as well as the ecology. "Ship breaking industry is considered Hell on Earth!" Congress MP Hibi Eden exclaimed.
He pointed out that ship recycling caused health hazards and even affected aquatic life. Talking about the Hong Kong Convention, he remarked that many NGOs like Greenpeace had criticized it for promoting adverse impact on environment. Moreover, only India and Turkey had signed the Convention and it had not yet come into force. Europe on the other hand had taken cognizance of the impact of ship recycling through a national law, he said.
NCP MP Supriya Sule said that there was no urgency to move the Bill and asked the government to rather focus on management of medical and electronic wastes.
JD(U) MP Kaushalendra Kumar also opposed the Bill as he was worried that the world's garbage will be accumulated in India. "We're seen as a dumping ground," one of the members remarked.
Minister of State Mansukh Mandaviya on the other hand tried to convince the members that the Bill was a comprehensive piece of legislation, having contemplated all issues pertaining to ship recycling, including health hazards and waste management. He told the members that the Bill prescribed a detailed compliance process which will be followed by all the recycling yards to dispose of hazardous waste. He also told the members that the industry will produce 10% steel in the recycling process and will boost that industry as well, apart from generating massive number of employment opportunities.
Addressing the concern raised by Hibi Eden, Mandayiya said,
"the Convention has been developed with inputs from International Maritime Organisation Member States, Non-Governmental Organisations and in co-operation with the International Labour Organisation and the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, 1989."
Supporting the bill, AITC MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury asked the government to decentralise the power which the Bill had concentrated at the hands of the Centre, through the National Authority.
Considerably, the Supreme Court has also recognized the ill-effects of ship recycling and had issued certain guidelines to curb the same in Research Foundation for Science v. Union of India and Anr., WP (C) No. 657/1995.
The Bill will now be tabled before the Upper House for consideration and passing.
With Inputs From PRS Legislative Research
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