Specialized ship recycling saves lives and preserves the marine ecosystem

Today's ship recycling still needs more specialization, as it remains precarious in certain regions. This puts the marine environment and the lives of the people involved at risk. Get to know why this segment must be treated with more responsibility.      

Marine transportation is one of the vital sectors of international trade, responsible for the movement of 80% of all cargo worldwide.

Each year, an estimated 800 vessels are dismantled because of their natural deterioration due to navigation due time. Some, undergo dismantling following the strict rules of specialized naval recycling.

On the other hand, most naval structures still follow rudimentary recycling processes that endanger the lives of the workers involved and the marine environment.

Vessels and naval structures have a shorter life than usual lifespan because the sea air deteriorates parts and hulls more quickly.

An old issue still persists in the shipping industry: greed. In this case, ship owners, aiming to reduce costs, adopt outdated and dangerous methods.

For this reason, there are already international campaigns by environmentalists, longshoreman’s unions, and other sectors involved in ship recycling for urgent measures to avoid a greater evil.

The European Union, ahead of other global shipping entities, recently approved a regulation determining that ships flying the European flag can only be dismantled and recycled by specialized shipyards, complying with environmental and worker protection norms.

Besides the workers’ life, another concern is to control more strictly the spillage of tons of oil and toxic waste from unserviceable or stranded ships.

Specialized ship recycling has a rigid protocol that shipping companies must follow

Specialized Ship Recycling Plan

1 - Inventory

A checklist of the material from the vessel that will be recycled, sold, or disposed of. The document will be a parameter to determine the amount of material hazardous to the workers' health as well as to the marine fauna and flora, as in the case of asbestos and substances that destroy the ozone layer.

2 - Inspection Hazardous Materials

The IHM document is employed and must comply with the following assignments:

  • Collect information about the material according to its degree of danger, unhealthiness, and other important data for prevention.
  • Evaluation of the vessel's information through VSN document (Visual Sampling and Check) aiming its subsequent validation by specialized technicians.
  • Analysis of the samples along with the interpretation of the analysis results.

    The HMI, in short, provides owners, crews, engineers, management agents, and workers with a detailed report of all hazardous materials onboard the ship.

    3 - Recycling Planning

    The specialized ship recycling planning may also contain, schedule and guidelines for toxic and pollutant waste management, because the dismantling process of a naval structure (oil and gas exploration and production platform or naval vessel), requires special techniques. 

    Since this very planning is not yet a common practice, the situation remains dangerous in many countries around the world. 

    The ship recycling of Asian-flagged vessels, for example, is one of those that most disrespect minimum rules for safety and environmental protection.

    Much of the Asian ship recycling industry still employs dangerous processes, such as the so-called Beaching Method, which adopts full-blown beaching, when it could be done in a dry dock.

      According to the representative of the NGO ShipBreaking Platform, Sara Costa, "More than 70% of the ships that sail the world's oceans are recycled in precarious conditions, as happens on the beaches of Bangladesh, India. This procedure causes irreversible damage to the local ecosystems and high risks to the lives of the workers in charge of the service, even when the dismantling is done in shipyards. In some cases, the situation is analogous to slavery! Moreover, many are killed or maimed."

      The strict use of specialized naval recycling rules will allow the recovery of up to 95% of the recycled material and will become a profitable alternative enterprise that will contemplate the circular economy and, of course, will be fundamental for the preservation of human lives and marine structures. 

      The process of preserving marine structures

      The use of marine structures (coral reefs embedded in naval structures), contributes to the creation of a new colonies of aquatic organisms. The collected material is reinserted in strategic points to encourage sport diving and underwater tourism. There may also be the use of the entire structure of the vessel that has historical value.

      In the US, Nimitz and the 13 submarines are expected to go through the recycling process over the next five years. It will be an end to a nearly 50-year career for the Nimitz.

      Other historical vessels can also be used for exhibition purposes, both on land and afloat, becoming a museum.

      The ship recycling market is a growing market

      The specialized ship recycling market is attractive because it gathers new jobs in various segments of the shipping industry:

      inspeção de embarcações
      • hull cleaning

      • towage to the shipyard

      • logistics

      • off-shore collection from anchored ships, using trucks, hoses, and motor pump sets

      • companies specialized in absorption equipment and containment barriers (avoids environmental pollution on the coasts or high seas). 

      Ship recycling is indispensable for reducing risks to the crew, workers, and environment as well. That's why this process needs to be enhanced for the greater good!

      By Marco Veado - THINK GREEN