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Enforcing EU environmental law outside Europe?

Thomas Ormond

elni Review 2009, Issue 1,  pp. 13-21. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2009.002

There is a significance of EU Member States and European owners in the world of shipping: about 23 % of the merchant ships worldwide fly the flags of Member States and approximately 40 % of the world tonnage is owned by companies domiciled in Europe. What happens to those ships at the end of their lives may be seen as a striking example for the export of an environmental problem from the First to the Third World: More than 80 % of the international merchant ship tonnage is nowadays broken up in South Asia, especially in Bangladesh and India. Today’s end-of life ships do not only consist of steel – which makes recycling profitable – but also contain more or less large quantities of waste oil, asbestos, PCB and other hazardous materials. The recycling countries and particularly Bangladesh rarely have the means and the will to avoid pollution with such hazardous waste and to protect workers’ health adequately. This failure, which is evident in many developing countries, is one of the reasons why the EU transposed the so-called Basel Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention on transboundary waste movements into its law and strictly prohibited since 1998 the export of all hazardous waste and waste for disposal to non-OECD countries. But the export ban, as the article explains in more detail, is virtually ineffective in relation to European ships that go for dismantling to South Asia.
This article focuses on legal aspects of the ship dismantling problem as an example of the difficulties of applying and enforcing EU law especially in a maritime context, before turning to the current initiatives to regulate the recycling of ships at international and European level.

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