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Pakistan ratifies the Hong Kong Convention

6 December, 2023Pakistan becomes the 23rd country to ratify the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Convention is set to come into force in June 2025.

Pakistan’s ratification of the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), means that the convention has now been ratified by all the major ship recycling countries in the world.

Earlier this year, Bangladesh and Liberia officially ratified it, and with that the threshold criteria for the HKC to come into force was met. For the Hong Kong Convention to enter into force, it required ratification by at least 15 States, representing 40 per cent of the world’s merchant shipping by gross tonnage and a combined maximum annual ship recycling volume of no less than 3 per cent of their combined tonnage.

The objectives of the Convention goes beyond environmental concerns encompassing safeguarding of workers’ rights. The HKC is a crucial tool in ensuring safety of workers at yards which are known to be the most dangerous workplace in the world. 

In order for Pakistan's shipbreaking yards to comply with the HKC standards, employers will need to upgrade their facilities, and the Pakistan government will need to ensure the implementation of the same. As per the Convention, yards are required to have basic healthcare facilities, proper infrastructure as well as proper waste disposal mechanisms. Ship recycling is anticipated to rise over the next ten years which makes it even more imperative that these standards be appropriately put into practice. 

National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), IndustriALL’s affiliate in Pakistan, organises shipbreaking workers, and has been instrumental in promoting the ratification of the Convention with both the provincial government of Balochistan and the federal government. Although shipbreaking volumes were very low in 2023, the union has succeeded in registering workers for social security.

Nasir Mansoor, president of the NTUF, says:

“We believe that ratification of the Convention will position Pakistan to take advantage of an anticipated recycling boom, and give workers the opportunity to improve their conditions. We have already submitted a draft proposal on the shipbreaking law to the Balochistan government and will take it up with the federal government after the election next year.”

IndustriALL general secretary, Atle Høie, says:

“The disaster at plot 54 of the Gadani shipbreaking yards in November 2016 killed at least 28 workers, and injured many more. The ratification of this Convention means that industrial homicides like this will become a thing of the past. We congratulate our affiliate the NTUF for their tireless work in improving workers’ conditions. We now have an opportunity to establish social dialogue in the shipbreaking yards, and ensure that the work is safe and decent.”

Photo: Flickr-Adam Cohn