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Ship Recycling Industry at a Crossroads: Low Rates and Environmental Concerns Prompt Call for Innovation

Ship Recycling Industry at a Crossroads: Low Rates and Environmental Concerns Prompt Call for Innovation

Ship Recycling Industry at a Crossroads: Low Rates and Environmental Concerns Prompt Call for Innovation

The ship recycling industry is facing a period of significant change. According to Bimco, a trade association, a mere 2 million deadweight tonnes (dwt) of ship capacity were dismantled in the first quarter of 2024. This represents the lowest level of ship recycling for bulkers, tankers, and container ships in two decades. Industry experts are set to convene at a dedicated conference, The Ship Recycling Lab, in Lisbon, Portugal, this October to discuss the future of the sector.

Cracking Down on Unsafe Practices

The Shipbreaking Platform, an NGO that advocates against the environmentally destructive practice of “beaching” ships, will host the conference. Beaching involves dismantling ships on Asian shores with inadequate safety and environmental standards. While the number of ships dismantled this way has decreased in the first three months of 2024 (127 ships), the practice remains prevalent in Southeast Asia.

The Shipbreaking Platform also highlighted a recent case where Norwegian shipping company Altera Infrastructure was fined €700,000 for beaching two tankers, the Navion Britannia and Alexita Spirit, in India four years ago. The company was found to be responsible for the illegal export of the vessels, which were subsequently sold to a cash buyer and dismantled on the Alang beach, known as a “ship graveyard.”

“It’s encouraging to see enforcement agencies like Økokrim (Norway’s environmental crime authority) holding ship owners accountable for illegal waste trade,” said Ingvild Jenssen, founder of the Shipbreaking Platform.

The event will be hosted by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, which fights against beaching, the practice of scrapping ships on Asian beaches with inadequate standards and other standards. It reports that 127 ships were dismantled in the first three months of the year. While fewer vessels are being scrapped at sub-standard facilities in Southeast Asia, it is still common practice.

The watchdog also notes that Norwegian shipping company Altera Infrastructure was recently fined EUR 700 000 for beaching two ships in India four years ago. Alteria was found liable for the illegal export of tankers Navion Britannia and Alexita Spirit.

Both vessels were sold to cash buyer Wirana and beached in Alang, labelled as the graveyard for decommissioned ships.

Looking Towards a Sustainable Future

The Shipbreaking Platform is urging the industry to embrace visionary solutions for ship recycling. The Lisbon conference, nicknamed “The Lab,” aims to bring together key stakeholders from various sectors: maritime, recycling, steel, finance, and policymakers. Participants will showcase strategies for achieving high-quality ship dismantling with a focus on material recovery.

Discussions at the conference will revolve around crucial topics like ship design for easier dismantling, worker safety, establishing circular economy goals in the industry, and fostering new partnerships. Jenssen emphasizes the importance of promoting companies that have developed innovative solutions, including advanced cutting techniques and clean steel extraction technologies. The overall goal of the conference is to set a higher standard for ship recycling practices moving forward.

Representatives from leading companies like Damen (shipbuilding), Hapag-Lloyd (shipping), IFC (investment), IOGP (oil & gas producers), and Petrobras (oil & gas) are confirmed speakers at the event. This gathering signifies a collective effort to address the challenges plaguing the ship recycling industry and pave the way for a more sustainable future.


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