The Recycling Of Ships Act, 2019

  • 13 Dec 2019

  • On 13th December, 2019, the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 received the President's assent and became an Act. The government also decided to accede to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 on 28th November, 2019.
  • When the Hong Kong International Convention comes into force, its provisions will be implemented under the provisions of the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 and rules and regulations framed there under.


  • To provide a boost to the ship-wrecking industry in India

Need for Bill

  • India is the leader in the global ship recycling industry, with a share of over 25% of the world’s ship recycling industry. But the industry is plagued with issues like the safety of worker as well as the environment concerns.

Salient Features

Authorization of Recycling Facilities

  • Under the Bill, ship recycling facilities are required to be authorized and ships shall be recycled only in such authorized ship recycling facilities.

Ship-Specific Recycling Plan

  • The Bill also provides that ships shall be recycled in accordance with a ship-specific recycling plan. Ships to be recycled in India shall be required to obtain a Ready for Recycling Certificate in accordance with the Hong Kong Convention (HKC).

Restriction on Hazardous Material

  • It restricts and prohibits the use or installation of hazardous material, which applies irrespective of whether a ship is meant for recycling or not. Ships shall be surveyed and certified on the inventory of hazardous material used in ships.

Grace Period for Existing Ships

  • For new ships, such restriction on use of hazardous material will be immediate, that is, from the date the legislation comes into force, while existing ships shall have a period of five years for compliance.
  • However, restriction on use of hazardous material would not be applied to warships and non-commercial ships operated by Government.


  • Regularising Ship Recycling Industry: The bill will help to provide for the regulation of recycling of ships by setting certain international standards and laying down the statutory mechanism for enforcement of such standards.

Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships

  • Also known as the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), it was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference held in Hong Kong, in May 2009.
  • It was developed with input from International Maritime Organistaion(IMO) Member States and non-governmental organizations, and in co-operation with the International Labour Organization and the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
  • The Convention is yet come into force because it has not been ratified by 15 nations, representing 40 percent of the world merchant shipping by gross tonnage (capacity) and a maximum annual ship recycling volume of not less than 3 per cent of the combined tonnage of the countries.
  • As of now, Norway, Congo, France, Belgium, Panama, Denmark, Turkey, Netherland, Serbia, Japan, Estonia, Malta, Germany and India have acceded to the Convention.


  • To improve the health and safety of current ship breaking practices
  • To ensure safety of  human health and the environment


  • Once entered into force, it will help address the  concerns about working and environmental conditions in many of the world's ship recycling locations.
  • It will help in addressing the major issues related to   hazardous substances such as asbestos, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, ozone depleting substances and others, which pose a grave threat to the environment.

Benefits to India

  • Boost to Ship Recycle Industry: Accession to HKC will provide boost to recycling sector as more ships will be allowed to come in from countries like Japan, Korea, to be recycled. At present, a lot of countries raise environment and safety issues related to the ship-wrecking industry in India.
  • Investment Opportunities: Being a world player in ship recycling, the move will allow global funds to come and invest in ship-recycling centres in India.
  • Green Recycling of Ships: It will help India to bring in global best practices followed in recycling industries, ensuring that the ships are dismantled in an environment-friendly and responsible manner.

Issues in Ship Recycling Industry in India

Safety Issues

  • Workers usually lack personal protective equipment and have little training, if at all. Inadequate safety controls, badly monitored work operations and high risk of explosions create very dangerous work situations.
  • Due to the absence of norms about the standard the vessel should be in when it arrives for scrapping, the vessel represents in itself a number of potential risks. Basic risk-reducing or eliminating measures are often ignored and ultimately accidents occur.
  • Lack of coordination for work procedures, the absence of facilities and the absence of safety control represent elements of risk causing bodily harm and injuries.
  • In addition, impunity for yard owners remains a serious concern. No yard owner has ever been held responsible for the death of a worker as they manage to put pressure on the law enforcers to quickly drop the charges.

Health Related Issues

  • On the shipbreaking beaches, asbestos fibers and flocks fly around in the open air, and workers take out asbestos insulation materials with their bare hands. Exposure to other heavy metals found in many parts of ships such as in paints, coatings, anodes and electrical equipment can result in cancers and also cause damage to blood vessels.
  • Workers spend their days slathered in mud contaminated with heavy metals and toxic paint particles that leach from the ships into the tidal flats.
  • Workers have very limited access to health services and inadequate housing, welfare and sanitary facilities further exacerbate the plight of the workers. Despite of thousands of workers deployed at a ship breaking site there is hardly any provision of doctors or clinics to meet any exigencies.

Waste Management Issues

  • Wastes generated by Ship breaking industry can be broadly classified into hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. Hazardous waste stream comprises of asbestos, Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), Tributyltin TBT, heavy metals etc.
  • Besides solid wastes, gases such as ammonia, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from the air conditioning system, and inflammable gases may be present in pipelines of oil tankers. Although these wastes constitute only around 1% of dead weight of a ship, the total amount in millions of tonne, make these wastes difficult to handle, posing a major risk both  to health and environment.

Environmental Issues

Water Pollution

  • Water body, primarily the marine environment gets polluted in terms of suspended solids, nitrates, phosphate, heavy metals, oil and grease from bilge water.
  • Oil spills, heavy metals like lead, mercury and organotins like Tributyltin (TBT) pose threat to marine ecosystem including birds and mammals, zooplanktons, phytoplanktons, etc.

Soil Pollution

  • Improperly handled heavy metals (lead, cadmium) found in paint chips, asbestos fibres and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) containing elements can become potential source of contamination of soil in the vicinity of the ship scrapping activity.

Air Pollution

  • The paints and coatings on a ship are generally flammable and contain toxic compounds such as PCBs, heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc and copper) and pesticides such as TBT.
  • Toxic smoke potentially carrying dioxins, furans and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are generated when non-recyclable rubber pipes, broken electrical fixtures are burnt in open air.
  • Fine particulates generated during stripping of ship and release of CFCs from explosion of gases entrapped in refrigeration system or other explosive chemicals further contributes to air pollution from various ship breaking processes.

Way Forward

  • Ship breaking industry in India is a part of the global ship recycling practices. This industry, like others, has many challenges and opportunities.  On one hand, ship breaking is a green process wherein a ship at end of its life cycle is being dismantled and each part is sent further for reuse, but on the other hand, the complex process of dismantling involves issues like labour safety and health and further it poses challenges on environment as well, which is a matter for criticism.
  • Despite all its drawbacks, theoretically, shipbreaking has many advantages – it promotes sustainable development by reducing the need for mining of natural resources and it contributes to production of steel which helps in generation of employment. With the back drop of sustainability issues, this industry has the potential to be the prime economic activity in India.