EU Has Capacity to Break Its Ships, New Report Shows

ShipbreakingIllustration. Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

Ship recycling yards approved by the European Union will have enough capacity to handle demand from EU-flagged ships that need to be scrapped, a new report says.

As explained, the shipping industry wants low-cost ship demolition yards outside the EU to be added to the EU list of approved facilities in order to meet demand from vessels bound by the bloc’s ship recycling law, which enters force on January 1, 2019.

To remind, by December 31, 2018, all vessels flying the flag of an EU member state will need to comply with the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (SRR). This means that any end-of-life, EU-flagged vessel will need to be scrapped at an approved ship recycling facility.

However, the current EU list can accommodate the numbers and sizes of EU-flagged ships that are scrapped every year, the new report by NGOs Shipbreaking Platform and Transport & Environment (T&E) shows.

The 20 EU yards currently recognized as meeting ship-recycling standards have had the capacity to handle all EU ships broken since 2015, the report finds

Shipbreaking Platform and T&E said lawmakers should not succumb to pressure to either delay the implementation of the regulation or add sub-standard shipbreaking facilities – which would never be allowed to operate in EU countries – to the EU list.

Yards that use the beaching method are of particular concern. Vessels are full of hazardous materials, including asbestos, chlorine compounds, heavy metals and residue oils. On a tidal mudflat it is not possible to contain these toxics – instead they are washed out to the sea, and ravage coastal ecosystems. Without proper protective equipment, workers are also sickened and exposed to unnecessary risk. Accidents at the beaching yards kill or maim young men each year due to unsafe practices.

“The shipowners’ capacity claims are a clear red herring. Alternatives to beaching end-of-life ships exist. It boils down to not accepting the low occupational safety and environmental protection standards that allow many unapproved yards to operate cheaply,” Ingvild Jenssen, director of Shipbreaking Platform, commented.

According to two organizations, shipowners “misleadingly” cite the EU yards’ historical capacity to claim that they are over-capacity. However, this does not take into account the EU facilities operating under capacity due to being undercut by sub-standard competition overseas. It also ignores the capacity of newly-opened yards which are just starting to operate, Shipbreaking Platform and T&E said.

“The business of breaking EU ships is an opportunity to boost circular economy and create green jobs in Europe. EU-listed yards have the capacity to break all EU-flagged ships and more. There is no excuse for sending ships to dangerous and polluting yards on beaches overseas,” Lucy Gilliam, shipping officer at T&E, pointed out.

The European Commission, national experts and stakeholders meet on October 3 to discuss the implementation of the regulation.

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