Ship Recycling – Ecological Solution Neglected by Maritime
Green shipping is not just making sure the right measures are taken when a vessel is operational. It is every decision and action from a ship’s inception to its destruction. In the past, the latter was an afterthought: after a vessel served it’s allotted average lifespan of around 25-30 years, it would be abandoned, sunk in the ocean or sent to the shores of impoverished countries for shipbreaking that harms the environment and the workers dismantling the ships. To prevent further dangerous practices, the industry is moving towards green ship recycling. But are the current initiatives enough?
What’s ship recycling?
The environmentally friendly solution to dispose of decommissioned ships is to send them to green recycling centres where vessels are scrapped for valuable metals. They include steel, brass, aluminium, silver, among others that can be reused throughout different industries, for example, construction.
Moreover, ships also contain toxic substances such as asbestos, lead, oil sludge and the like. When released into the water and atmosphere, this toxic waste damages the environment, endangers marine life and the health of recyclers. Dry-dock facilities dedicated to green ship recycling make sure to safely capture these toxic components from vessels and prevent their entrance to the waterways by disposing of them properly with around 99% success rate.
What’s encouraging ship recycling?
In 2009, the Hong Kong International Convention was adopted by the IMO. It set out obligations to shipowners strictly directing that vessels should be disposed of responsibly, protecting human health and the environment. Unfortunately, it only has six contracting States with Turkey being the only country to ratify it. This means that it is yet to come into force as at least 15 States with no less than 40% of the world’s tonnage and a proportionate recycling capacity need to ratify it for that to happen, according to the IMO.
However, from 31 December 2018, there finally is a legally binding and comprehensive instrument on ship recycling in force – the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. It dictates that all sea-going vessels, sailing under an EU flag must be recycled in one of the authorised ship recycling facilities. Right now, this list includes 26 yards, mostly in the EU, but also two in Turkey and one in the United States. Frustratingly, there might not be enough approved yards and facilities to meet the demand.
Alongside the regulation, maritime industry leaders announced the launch of the Ship Recycling Transparency Initiative (SRTI). Hosted by Sustainable Shipping Initiative and backed by The China Navigation Company, Hapag-Lloyd AG, A.P. Moeller-Maersk, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Standard Chartered and Lloyd’s Register among others, it is set to provide transparency by giving an online platform for shipping companies to disclose their ship recycling practices. This is expected to help industry stakeholders to make more informed decisions and affect positive change.
What’s hindering ship recycling?
SRTI has reported that out of the 50,000 vessels of the world fleet, 835 were recycled in 2017. Even with this level of activity and the progress made with the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, there is still no regulation managing this process on a global scale. The slow uptake of the Hong Kong International Convention also causes concern about the state of affairs when it comes to ship recycling.
The biggest challenge to the environmentally friendly disposal of ships came from China at the end of 2018. In a bid to reduce industries causing pollution, Beijing maritime authorities banned the recycling of non-Chinese flag ships in their shipyards. This step lessened the world’s ship recycling capacity by around one quarter.
Another barrier for the ship recycling issue may also be the lack of information to shipowners on sustainable ship recycling options and the true dangers of vessel disposal alternatives like shipbreaking. To raise awareness on this and other green shipping concerns, Wisdom is organising the 4th International Green & Smart Shipping Summit. It will be held in Rotterdam on 8-9 October, gathering shipowners, industry leaders, government representatives and other professionals across the maritime industry value chain. Register here: www.gssummit.org.