In addition to this, there are structural limitations to achieving a sustainable solution. More than half of the world’s container fleet today is chartered – or leased, if you will. The owners of these vessels generate their income by renting out ships to the shipping companies. As a shipowner you should however take responsibility for your own ship, also when it is scrapped. Regardless of the standards the shipping companies have as ‘leasee’ of a vessel, the responsibility for deciding the ship’s fate resides with the owner. In Maersk we are thus responsible for ensuring responsible dismantling of our own vessels. This is a responsibility we fully accept. It becomes more difficult when we divest used vessels. Lately we have taken on an extended responsibility by minimising the financial incentive for the buyer to scrap older vessels irresponsibly.
It is urgent that we find a solution. The problem will become even greater in the coming years with an increasing number of vessels to be recycled globally. Yet, it is not simple. To be successful the solution must be sustainable, and acceptable for the environment, working environment and also commercially. It would be a failure if the shipping companies that assume responsibility then lose their competitiveness and ultimately their existence. The global environment and working environment would gain nothing from that. We must remember that there are countries to whom shiprecycling is a significant employer and business.
Until this day we have waited unsuccessfully for seven years for a global agreement on shiprecycling. Despite great efforts for universal ratification of the UN’s Hong Kong Convention, which was negotiated in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and which sets global minimum standards within safety and environment, we are still waiting. We have been waiting since 2009 when we introduced a responsible recycling policy and expressed our support to the Hong Kong Convention.
Meanwhile we recognize and admit that our own contracts from divestments have not always guaranteed the intention of our recycling policy. We have learned from this. We have tightened our procedures and contract requirements while also realizing that the solution does not lie with clever contracts and that it may take a long time for a global agreement to become effective.
Instead, the answer is on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As the world’s largest container shipping company we have decided to start here. We have requested a number of improvements to the yards that wish to work with us, and we give the yards in Alang in India who want a better future for themselves and their employees a financial incentive to upgrade their work and environmental conditions. The requirements cover not just the Hong Kong Convention, they are enhanced with our own stricter requirements on working conditions and environment. In return, we invest and allocate both internal and external resources to assist shipyards in improving the conditions.
There is a healthy commercial incentive behind this solution. If the ship yards live up to our requirements we will send our vessels for dismantling at a competitive price. This way they can compete with neighbouring yards that do not live up to the Hong Kong Convention. We support the yards showing willingness to change and we support their already significant progress. Since sending vessels to Alang for the first time in May, we have seen significant progress in several areas: on the Shree Ram yard, which has received the first two ships from us, 70% of the workers have received intensive training and instructions from the British Lloyds Register Quality Assurance and other qualified organisations. The remaining 30 %, who perform less dangerous tasks, have also received training targeted at their tasks.