The ship recycling industry has an infamous reputation – mostly due to a total lack of safety and environmental standards. Traditionally vessels have been sold, often through middle men, to the highest bidders – normally the yards who have invested the least in training, equipment and facilities. More than 80% of vessels demolished today still end their lives on polluted beaches somewhere in South East Asia.

Normal practice among ship owners has been to conceal the identity of their vessels before they reach the demolition yard in an attempt to protect their reputation from disreputable recycling methods. The last days of a ship can be in stark contrast to its operating life during which it receives the best care and maintenance whilst upholding all safety standards. We believe, with a little effort and the right choices, the situation can be very different.

There are currently some 300 demolition yards world-wide serving international shipping clients. Less than 10% of these yards are of a standard considered acceptable according to modern regulations for safety and environmental standards. There are vast differences amongst the recycling yards in the most active countries.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have scattered and fragmented markets with a few large recycling yards and an array of smaller facilities. Most, if not all, of these yards use the beaching method when demolishing vessels.

Government-approved yards in China use quay-side demolition methods combined with the use of heavy cranes and floating or dry docks in the process. This is a method which Grieg Green finds to be both more environmentally friendly and adheres to international safety standards, hence is our main focus.

More: CNN feature on the industry in Bangladesh


What will the future bring?

The recycling industry has changed dramatically over the last few years. It has developed from being a shameful part of our business to be an area the most modern owner want to be proud of – in the same way they are proud of the standard of their ships in operation. This change has come in part due to the constant focus from environmental groups and the media and has been made possible with a will to change the international legislation governing this area. In a competitive world, the responsibility we have towards our environment cannot be shouldered by some ship owners alone – it must be a common effort from all players in the industry.

The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in May 2009.

The Convention will regulate the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships to allow for safe and environmentally sound recycling. It will also provide strict guidelines for the operation of ship-recycling yards. The Convention dictates that vessels must carry an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM)* on-board. Ship-recycling yards will be required to provide a detailed ship recycling plan before work can commence. Member-states will be asked to ensure that facilities under their jurisdiction comply with the Convention. The Convention will enter into force as soon as the ratification process has been fulfilled as per defined criterion.

The *Inventory of Hazardous Materials provides relevant information to recycling facilities about hazardous materials contained in parts or systems of a ship. These are materials that the recycling facilities may encounter during dismantling of the vessel. The inventory also provides valuable safety, health and environmental information for seafarers onboard and for ship yards undertaking repairs or conversions.