Cleaning Up Ship Recycling

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

January 1, 2016

Photo by DNV GL

Photo by DNV GL

 When a ship is sent to die, 95 per cent of its components live on. But the safety and sustainability record of ship recycling yards could be improved. MARITIME IMPACT explains how EU regulations aim to achieve this.

Every year up to 1,500 ships are recycled to rejuvenate the world leet and reclaim valuable materials such as steel, aluminium and copper. The majority of these vessels are recycled in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Turkey. 
Conditions at shipbreaking yards vary. Personal protection equipment such as helmets, shoes, gloves and masks is not always available. Hazardous materials, from heavy metals to fuel oil, may leak into the sea and soil, polluting the area and creating serious health hazards.
Radical changes: Past efforts to regulate the handling and disposal of hazardous materials (Basel Convention 1989) and to improve safety and environmental standards in ship recycling (Hong Kong Convention 2009) have failed to produce any tangible results. 
“Progress has been very slow. But the implementation of the European Ship Recycling Regulation will bring about some radical changes over the next few years. It applies to roughly 60,000 ships, about two-thirds of the global leet,” says Gerhard Aulbert, Global Head of Practice Ship Recycling at DNV GL.
The European Ship Recycling Regulation, in force since 30 December 2013, addresses the environmental and health issues associated with ship recycling while avoiding unnecessary economic burdens. Applicable to all EU-lagged vessels as well as non-EU-lagged ships calling at or anchoring in ports within the European Union, it accelerates implementation of the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention and sets out responsibilities for shipowners and recycling facilities both within the EU and in other countries.
One of the cornerstones of the regulation is the socalled inventory of hazardous materials (IHM). Every EU-lagged newbuild has to carry an inventory of all hazardous materials contained in its structure and equipment plus a statement of compliance, at the earliest by 31 December 2015 and at the latest by 31 December 2018. 
If the ship is to be recycled the IHM should be on board from the date when the European list of ship recycling facilities is published, which is expected to happen by the end of 2016.
Before a ship is recycled, its owner must provide the recycling yard with ship-speciic information and prepare a recycling plan. But Thomas Nigl, who investigated IHM standards in his master’s thesis at DNV GL, cautions: “While IHMs are an important step towards establishing safer and more environmentally friendly ship recycling methods, much needs to be improved in terms of procedures. Methodology discrepancies in the development of IHMs for newly built versus existing ships have led to considerable differences in the quantities of ‘HazMats’ identiied on board.”
Too much is left to the discretion of the individual HazMat expert, he points out. “The industry needs deinitions and documentation for the development of IHMs and the materials themselves. Standards and an effective control mechanism for material declaration in the supply chain would also be desirable toensure that IHMs are effective.” 
Getting approval for shipbreaking:  A new benchmarking system established by the EU regulation restricts recycling to facilities approved by the European Union. “Methods such as beaching will most likely be banned, and recycling facilities will have to obtain EU approval to compete for European-lagged vessels,” explains Gerhard Aulbert.
Waste disposal management, facility infrastructure, safety procedures and training are key criteria for approval.
To reduce pollution from leakage, recycling facilities need to dismantle vessels on paved surfaces and install drainage systems. This could prove to be a challenge in places such as Alang, India, where more than half of the world’s decommissioned ships are scrapped. High tides and a naturally sloping beach make it easy to haul ships onto the shore and carry out pre-cleaning and block breaking in shallow water. 
“These kinds of practices cannot continue. I expect the number of recycling yards to decrease because beaching will not prevail in the long run,” explains Aulbert. Some ship recyclers have already upgraded their facilities to achieve compliance with the EU regulation and gain competitive advantage.
“But many facilities still violate the Basel Convention standards for disposal of hazardous materials and have a long way to go.”
Several owners are taking steps towards improved sustainability. “Hapag-Lloyd is one of the companies that are developing IHMs for their newbuilds. But to date, only ten per cent of ships recycled have an IHM on board,” Aulbert points out.
Based on studies DNV GL conducted on smaller ship recycling facilities in Turkey, more sustainable practices are expected to increase the costs of ship recycling by about 17 euros per light displacement ton (LDT). 
DNV GL expects the IHM development to open up the avenue for shortening the value chain of ship recycling, as the inventory also includes a ship’s valuable parts – resulting in additional revenue forshipowners. 
For example, the EU regulation allows shipowners to have a vessel recycled by one facility, but sell their steel globally “giving owners more independence from recycling facilities regarding the proit from the ship,” says Aulbert. “Using the list of EU-vetted facilities, shipowners will also have a better basis for deciding which recycling yard to use and can ensure that their vessels are scrapped in a sustainable way.” 
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