Ship Recycling

Ship Recycling

End-of-life ships should not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment when being recycled. ECSA believes that ships should be recycled in yards compliant with the International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Reycling of Ships, the “Hong Kong Convention”.

Ship recycling – complete or partial dismantling of a ship enabling the re-use of valuable materials – is what ships face in the end of their lifespan which for the modern ships is 25-30 years. By then, corrosion, metal fatigue and lack of parts make them uneconomical to run. The materials of the ships, especially steel, are recycled and made into new products. Any re-usable equipment, electrical devices and other items on board are also re-cycled. Even many hazardous wastes can be recycled into new products such as lead-acid batteries of electronic circuit boards. In this way, ship recycling is a notable part of the circular economy, keeping resources at use for as long as possible and minimising waste. 

Ship recycling is an important industry for sustainable production and supports the developing economies of several countries. As the ship breaking in most developed countries became economically non-viable, in 1950s’ the low-cost Asian countries began to dominate ship breaking. In the recent years over 90% of the ships were demolished in the global ship breaking centers of India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan.


How is ship recycling regulated?

Hong Kong Convention

The 2009 International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, also known as the ‘Hong Kong Convention’ (HKC), was adopted in 2009. It provides a meaningful system of workable and enforceable regulations with the ultimate goal of lifting the level of sustainability of recycling facilities on a global scale to the benefit of all parties involved. The HKC places clear obligations on all parties concerned – shipowners, recycling facilities, flag states as well as recycling states – to ensure that end-of-life ships do not pose any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and the environment when being recycled.

The Convention will enter into force 24 months after the date on which the following conditions are met:

  1. Ratification by 15 States,
  2. Representation by 40% of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, and
  3. A maximum annual ship recycling volume not less than 3 per cent of the combined tonnage of the ratifying States

As of November 2016, Norway, Congo, France, Belgium and Panama have ratified the Convention. More States should ratify the Convention so that it would indeed enter into force.


The EU Ship Recycling Regulation

The EU Ship Recycling Regulation was adopted on 20 November 2013. The objective of the Regulation is to reduce the negative impacts linked to the recycling of ships flying the flag of Member States of the Union. It intends to ensure that shipbreakers provide evidence of pollution containment, as well as of adequate disposal facilities for hazardous waste. Owners of ships flying the flag of EU Member States will have to ensure that their ships are recycled in facilities included on a new approved list of facilities. The Regulation brings forward the requirements of the 2009 Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally sound Recycling of Ships, therefore contributing to its global entry into force.