One of the most dangerous industries in the world
The ship scrapping industry is one of the most dangerous industries in the world. More than 80% of all ocean going ships are scrapped on beaches in Asia, with little to no protection for workers and the environment. It is therefore not surprising that international organisations like the European Union are trying to influence this destructive status quo with legislation. The most important feat in that regards it the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the regulation, it’s origin and it’s effects. And why those may be quite adverse to the EU’s goal.
An international effort for sustainable shipbreaking
The EU Ship Recycling Regulation, officially known as Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013, is a law that sets requirements for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships. It applies to all ships flying the flags of EU member states, as well as ships registered in third countries that call at ports in the European Economic Area (EEA). This includes commercial and military vessels, but excludes ships that are used for non-commercial purposes, such as pleasure boats. The regulation came into force on
December 30, 2013, and has been gradually implemented since then.
The EU Ship Recycling Regulation is closely related to the 2009 Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Hong Kong Convention sets out a global framework for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, and aims to ensure that hazardous materials are managed in a way that protects human health and the environment. While the Hong Kong Convention has not yet entered into force, the EU Ship Recycling Regulation is seen as
a stepping stone towards its implementation.
How the regulation tries to sort effect
The goal of Regulation is to ensure that ships are recycled in an environmentally sound and safe manner, and that workers are protected from hazardous materials during the recycling process. This is achieved through a range of measures, including the use of certified ship recycling facilities, the implementation of waste management plans, and the proper handling of hazardous materials.
Under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, ships must be accompanied by a Material Declaration that provides information on the presence of hazardous materials on board. This includes details of the location and quantity of hazardous materials, as well as information on how they will be managed
during the recycling process. The Material Declaration must be prepared by the shipowner or operator, and must be updated throughout the life of the ship.
In addition to the Material Declaration, ships must also be accompanied by a Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity. This is a document that provides information on the materials used in the construction of the ship, and certifies that they comply with the relevant environmental and health and safety standards. The Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity must be prepared by the shipbuilder, and must be updated throughout the life of the ship.
During the shipbreaking processes, many toxic substances, whose content ranges from 1% to 10% of a ship’s weight, including asbestos, heavy metal, oils, and various other disposable materials, could be released into nature, which threatens the environment, ecology, and public health (Rahman and Kim 2020). The EU Ship Recycling Regulation includes strict rules related to hazardous materials on ships. These rules aim to ensure that hazardous materials are handled in a way that protects human health and the environment. For example, ships must be free of all hazardous materials prior to recycling, and any hazardous materials that are removed from the ship must be handled and
disposed of in a way that complies with EU environmental and health and safety standards.
And why it fails to do so
The EU Ship Recycling Regulation applies to shipowners, ship operators, and ship recycling facilities. Shipowners and operators must ensure that their ships are recycled in a safe and environmentally sound manner, either at a certified recycling facility or in a non-EU country that has been approved by the European Commission. Ship recycling facilities must meet strict environmental and health and safety standards in order to be certified by an approved classification society. On the list of EU certified yards, there are 34 shipbreaking yards from 16 EU countries and Norway, 6 Turkish shipbreaking yards, and one US shipbreaking yard (European Commission 2021), but no shipbreaking yard from the world’s top three shipbreaking countries (Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan). With the regulation into force from 2013 on, one would expect to see ships from the EU being demolished in these yards. However, about 55% of EU ships were transferred to Bangladesh, 28% to India, and 2%
to Pakistan in 2019. Only 3% were dismantled by the ship recycling facilities listed in the EU list (Lin Lin et al 2022).
Impact and way forward
There is a simple enough explanation for this, and it’s a perverse game of capture the flag. In short, the effectiveness of the EU SRR based on the flag state’s jurisdiction is weakened by the owner’s act of changing the flag. The enforcement of the EU SRR only prompted shipping companies to change their flags, but did not substantially improve the nature of the transfer of polluting end of life ships from EU countries to underdeveloped countries. The EU SRR has not achieved the goal of increasing the competitiveness of safe and environmentally sound shipbreaking method (Lin Lin et al 2022).
If this practice continues, it’s effects will only be aggravated in the future because of the project rise in number of end of life ships. The gross tonnage of ships offered for dismantling in 2050 could potentially be 3–5 times of the current gross tonnage. Therefore, in order to meet the global ship recycling industry’s demand for green ship recycling capacity, the transition to the sustainability of substandard ship recycling yards needs to be accelerated.
CMT as key to the solution
Ship owners change the flags of their ships because ship buyers from Asia can offer them much better prices, up to 2 times what an EU yard can offer. For a solution to work, it has to be economically attractive to ship owners. CMT does just that, by focusing on throughput through automation. With a capacity to dismantle 70 ships per year, and gain unrivaled high quality output products, CMT is able to offer attractive and competitive prices to ship owners. The combination of incentives: social pressure, legal frameworks and attractive alternatives, will accelerate ship recycling to a more sustainable future.