HONG KONG, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the world's first ship recycling convention at the end of a five-day diplomatic conference of the United Nations unit in Hong Kong on Friday.
The adoption of the International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was "a new chapter in IMO's history," IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos said at the signing ceremony.
The convention comprises a set of guidelines and legally binding rules governing the ship breaking industry to ensure that "ships, when recycled, do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health, the safety of workers in the industry or the environment."
It was also expected to impact ship building practices worldwide.
The IMO has previously issued a set of guidelines on ship recycling but there had been no legally binding convention on the ship breaking industry, which employs hundreds of thousands, particularly in the developing world.
While it creates many jobs, ship recycling also poses environmental and health challenges due to certain harmful substances typically used in ship building.
The draft convention, which came about after three years of preparatory work by key stakeholders, had been put up for discussion at the diplomatic conference for the some 60 members or associated members of the IMO to discuss and adopt.
It provides guidelines for the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships for recycling; the operation of ship recycling facilities in terms of safety and environment; the establishment of an appropriate implementation mechanism including surveys and certification, inspections and reporting requirements.
The most impressive requirement under the new convention is the need to have an updated inventory of hazardous materials on board a ship.
For the convention to take effect, it still requires ratification from members of the IMO, in addition to a minimum of tonnage of ships regulated, among others.
"Some say it will take three years, some say five years or four years," said Nikos Mikelis, an expert working with the International Monetary Organization.