What is Green Ship Recycling?

The increasing waste and its improper management are one of the crises that countries across the world face these days. Be it an agricultural waste or industrial waste, the rise in the disposal of waste materials is at an alarming rate, polluting the land, air and water as never before. Studies have stated that 40 percent of the waste worldwide ends up in huge rubbish tips, and also the oceans will see more plastic in it than fish by 2050. However, the concrete efforts in the past few decades have made remarkable changes in our disposable culture and also opened doors for a number of alternatives to waste disposal. Among them, recycling has been widely accepted as one of the fruitful methods for waste management.

Like any other industry, the shipping industry, indeed world’s biggest polluters, also creates a huge amount of waste every day. While ships dispose hundreds of tonnes of garbage from day to day operations, the disposing of a ship after it reaches the end of its service life also leaves a huge amount of waste, posing a potential hazard to the environment. The improper disposal of the ships in earlier days, especially when they were left unattended after discontinuation from the service, has created several graves of abandoned ships around the world. And, in the past decades, ship owners have also tried several other techniques; including Scuttling-the deliberate sinking of a ship, deep water sinking and shipbreaking, to get rid of their old vessels.

While shipbreaking has emerged as the most common method of ship disposal among them, the dirty shipbreaking practices have resulted in the dumping of dangerous toxic materials such as asbestos and PBCs on beaches and other open spaces. Sometimes, companies offload their vessels onto beaches in third world countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, allowing locals to dismantle the vessel without taking any proper measures.

Green Ship Recycling

However, when recycling and re-using goods and products has become an important requirement now, the shipbreaking method has also witnessed the recycling of the parts of the vessel.

Moreover, with the rise in awareness towards the maritime environment, there have been several changes in the process, which have given rise to a new term – green ship recycling. International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 also strictly directed that vessels that are being recycled after their service lives should not pose any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and to the environment. As a viable alternative to other methods of shipbreaking that makes negative effects on the environment, green ship recycling has been introduced across the world. As a way of responsible ship recycling, this method reduces the amount of waste and also keeps the waste materials from shipbreaking out of the beaches, reducing its impact on the environment.

There are several reasons which have made the concept of green ship recycling popular and meaningful. But, the most relevant benefits among them are:

  • Isolate those parts of the ship which are harmful and dangerous to both marine and human lives
  • Conserve marine ecosystem by proper discarding of ship breaking waste
  • Reusing those parts of the ship that are important and can be re-used successfully while making new ships, thus saving resources
  • Help the shipowner benefit from the process by optimum utility of the ship’s parts

The valuable components of a ship that are reused include steel, aluminium, silver and brass, among others. Since a major part of a ship’s weight is in steel, the steel scrap from the vessel is being converted into bars and rods for several other uses. However, in addition to the metal that can be recycled, there are a number of the toxic components inside a vessel. These harmful substances include lead, asbestos, mercury and oil sludge etc. The inefficient shipbreaking methods, especially those carried out on beaches than the dry-dock ship recycling facilities, allow these toxic and hazardous waste to be disposed of unsafely.

Related Reading: What is Marine Asbestos Survey?

However, the green ship recycling, which carries great responsibility of saving the environment, offers a better recycling standard. One of the major harmful materials that are safely disposed off with the help of green ship recycling process is asbestos. Any great informational site about asbestos will tell you that asbestos has been banned from being used in ships from the past two decades. But the ships in which asbestos had been used initially need to be recycled now. Since continuous exposure to asbestos can cause problems not just to the marine life forms but also to the people aboard the ship, this toxic component is being recycled with greater caution under this process.

Unlike the unhealthy process in which the dismantling of the vessel occurs on beaches, the green recycling centres with dry-dock facilities capture the toxic waste properly and dispose it without allowing them to flow out to waterways. Many green ship recycling labs are so well equipped that the success rate for the disposal of the harmful materials is nearly around 99%. In addition to protecting the environment, these green recycling centres are also offering more green recycling jobs, offering a safe workplace for the labourers.

On the other hand, this environmentally sound and safe recycling of a ship also offers the owner optimum utility of the ship’s parts. With the methodical dismantling of the vessel, the components that can be reused are saved with better care. The steel, along with other metal components, turns into rods for use in the construction industry and also corner castings and hinges. The generators and batteries which were part of the scrapped vessel will be reused for several other purposes. The appropriate recycling of the hydrocarbons on board transformed into oil products, while light fittings also reused on another vessel or even on land.

Green Passport

In order to become a part of the green ship recycling process, according to International Maritime Organisation’s guidelines, a ship has to have a certain document, known as the Green Passport. The Green Passport contains details of all materials, especially which are harmful to human health, used in the construction of a vessel. The green passport will be delivered by the shipyard during the construction and it will be later updated with all the changes made to the ship during its lifetime. Moreover, the ship recycling centres are required to provide a “Ship Recycling Plan”, to the concerned authorities. The plan will consist of the manner in which each vessel will be recycled, according to particulars and its inventory.

Green ship recycling was initially carried out by only developed countries with advanced technologies. However, even developing countries have also nowadays started inculcating processes that promote green ship breaking. Throughout the world, seminars and symposiums are being conducted in order to make more shipbuilders and proprietors aware of the benefit of green ship breaking. In these meetings and seminars, along with the advantages of ship recycling, various feasible methods to carry out the process of shipbreaking are also provided. These methods are cost-efficient and help the shipping concerns to ease the process of ship recycling.

Green ship recycling because of its success rate can become even more famous and important to the marine industry in the future. Added with the benefit of more technological developments, it can be expected that the process of shipbreaking will become even more common and feasible across all nations in the world.

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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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