20090515 ship breaking protest 18
A group of protesters unfurl a banner in front of Victoria Harbour close to where a symposium on ship breaking is being held in Hong Kong. - 


BILL RADKE: Today in Hong Kong delegates from 64 countries signed a new agreement regulating how old ships get recycled for scrap metal. Mostly those ships are disassembled on the beaches of India and Bangladesh. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

SAM EATON: The agreement requires ship owners to give recyclers detailed logs of any hazardous materials their ships transported. It also calls on recyclers to provide their workers with adequate protective gear. But activists say that's not enough.

JIM PUCKETT: It's not going to stop one single toxic ship from being broken on the beaches of developing countries.

Jim Puckett heads the environmental advocacy group, Basel Action Network. He says there's a reason the shipping industry supports the pact's new guidelines.

PUCKETT: They don't even prescribe how a ship should be broken. It's left to the states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to decide to apply those guidelines or not. And currently they're not and they have no incentive to do so.

Especially since business is booming. Shipping companies are scrapping a record number of older ships in response to the collapse in global trade. And because its cheaper, most of those ships will end up on the beaches of South Asia.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam