Nations Reach Ship-Breaking Treaty

"HONG KONG -- After more than five years of negotiations, delegates from 64 countries reached broad consensus here Thursday on a new international agreement regulating the recycling of ships. They scheduled a final meeting Friday to approve and sign the pact.

The dismantling of ships, so that their steel and other materials can be sold as scrap, is often done on or near beaches in poor countries, notably India and Bangladesh. Both nations have pledged to improve working conditions and environmental practices. But labor advocates contend that the process still kills and maims many workers each year and results in the contamination of shorelines with asbestos, oily waste, toxic paint and other dangerous materials.

The new agreement, the International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, requires all vessels to carry detailed, regularly updated inventories of hazardous materials throughout their years of service, and for this information to be provided to recycling facilities. The convention calls for workers at these centers to be equipped with a wide range of protective gear, for the centers to have disposal procedures for hazardous materials and for emergency response plans to be prepared."

Keith Bradsher reports for the New York Times May 14, 2009.

Source: NYTimes, 05/15/2009