Where the captain meets the smith: ship recycling
Life at sea can be rough, ask any seafarer. And that’s not just on the sailors, even more so for the ships. After 30 odd years, a ship has reached its end of life. But when the captain bids farewell to his vessel, its useful life is far from over. Actually, a new life is just around the corner.
Ship recycling plays a vital role in the lifecycle of vessels, ensuring their responsible end-of-life management. In recent years, there has been a shift in perspective from ship scrapping, often associated with environmental and labor concerns, to ship recycling, a more sustainable alternative.
How to recycle an ocean giant
Modern ocean going ships are enormous. Recycling a 250 meter long giant calls for more than a scrapyard press returning compressed metal cubes. The typical ship recycling process therefore involves several stages to maximize the recovery of valuable materials while minimizing environmental impact. Still more than 70% of the world fleet ends up on beaches in Asia, where they are scrapped mostly by hand. This presents great threats to people and the environment, end results in recycled materials of lower quality than possible. There is an alternative to scrapping, and that is recycling.
That process begins with the arrival of the ship at a designated recycling facility. Prior to recycling, the vessel undergoes preparation, which includes the removal of hazardous materials, such as asbestos, PCBs, and fuel residues. This step ensures worker safety and prevents environmental contamination. Once hazardous materials are eliminated, the ship is dismantled into smaller sections using various cutting techniques. Mostly this is done via cutting equipment mounted on diggers. The cut off sections are then processed further to extract recyclable materials, such as steel, aluminum, copper, and other non-ferrous metals. The recovered materials are segregated, processed, and prepared for reuse in various industries, contributing to resource conservation and reducing the need for virgin materials.