Bangladesh is set to ratify an international convention in early June on recycling ships aimed at increasing safety and environmental standards, a senior official told Reuters.
"We expect the first week of June for the official declaration," said Mamunur Rashid, a deputy secretary with the Ministry of Industries, who said Bangladesh is the world's top ship breaking and recycling centre.
The Hong Kong Convention was adopted in 2009 by 63 countries and so far has been ratified by 20 nations, including India, representing some 30% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping, official data showed.
There are still dangerous working conditions including fires and falling steel plates, which kill or seriously injure workers across breaker yards in south Asia, which also includes India and Pakistan, NGO Shipbreaking Platform campaigners have said.
The Hong Kong Convention, a treaty set up by UN shipping agency the International Maritime Organization (IMO), was aimed at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and to the environment.
"Once ratified, all countries will have a two-year grace period to convert ship breaking yards to
green," the government official said. "Once yards are green, most of the work will be done by machines. So, deaths and injuries will be almost nil."
For the convention to come into force a minimum of 15 countries representing 40% of gross tonnage need to ratify the accord, an IMO spokesperson said, highlighting the work still needed to bring in other countries to reach that threshold.
William MacLachlan, partner with law firm HFW, said while the move by Bangladesh was welcome it would "not be a panacea to concerns around ship recycling capacity", adding that the world had moved on since the Convention was adopted.
"The likely patchwork approach to enforcement by flag states and recycling states and the conflict with the approach adopted by the EU (European Union) and others will do little to simplify the regulatory environment around ship recycling," he wrote in a note.