Worldwide, between 200 and 600 large end-of-life ships are broken up and recycled every year, as their steel, other scrap metal and equipment constitute valuable raw materials. Most of this ship dismantling nowadays takes place in South Asia, on tidal beaches and under primitive conditions. While the industry provides thousands of jobs for migrant workers, a lack of environmental protection and safety measures leads to high accident rates, health risks and extensive pollution of coastal areas. Older ships contain many hazardous materials, including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributyl tin and large quantities of oils and oil sludge.
As many ships sail under the flag of an EU member state, and even more are owned by European companies, the situation is of concern to the EU. Community legislation is affected in so far as it prohibits the export of hazardous waste to developing countries.
This webpage gives information about the problem and the activities at international and EU level to improve the conditions of ship dismantling.
Press release "Commission presents EU strategy for safer ship dismantling".
A public consultation on the Commission Communication for "An EU Strategy for better ship dismantling" took place from April to June 2009 (see consultation document. Contributions in the context of this consultation are saved here. A summary of the contributions can be accessed here.
A stakeholder workshop was organised on the 9 June 2009. The presentations and minutes of the workshop can be acessed here.
A stakeholder workshop was organised on the 23 October 2009. Presentations can be acessed here.
On 22 May 2007, the European Commission has adopted a Green Paper on better ship dismantling:
A public consultation on the Green Paper took place from May to September 2007. Contributions in the context of this consultation are saved here. Short summary of these contributions (as of 15 October 2007) (pdf~20KB).
The European Parliament commented on the Green Paper and called for action at EU level in a resolution of 21 May 2008.
The Commission has assessed the impacts of an EU strategy for better ship dismantling, taking into account the results of the Green Paper consultation, and intends to publish a Communication on this issue in autumn 2008.
European Community law on waste shipments:
Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2006 on shipments of waste prohibits the export of hazardous waste from the Community to non-OECD countries.
With special regard to ships, recital 35 of this regulation reads:
"It is necessary to ensure the safe and environmentally sound management of ship dismantling in order to protect human health and the environment. Furthermore, it should be noted that a ship may become waste as defined in Article 2 of the Basel Convention and that at the same time it may be defined as a ship under other international rules. It is important to recall that work is ongoing, involving inter-agency cooperation between International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Secretariat of the Basel Convention, to establish mandatory requirements at the global level ensuring an efficient and effective solution to the problem of ship dismantling."
For the text of the regulation and more details see the waste shipment webpage
Case-law on export of end-of-life ships:
Developing an EU strategy for environmentally sound ship dismantling is an element of the Commission's Action Plan for An Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union, see p. 16.
For further information on EU Maritime Policy see here.
Studies and research projects of the European Commission on ship dismantling:
Milieu/COWI for DG Environment " Study in relation to options for new initiatives regarding dismantling of ships " (October 2009): Executive summary (pdf~240kb), Early transposition (pdf~490kb), Ship dismantling fund (pdf~350kb), Table of correspondance (pdf~580kb), Appendixes (pdf~225kb), List of relevant documentation (pdf~260kb).
COWI study for DG Environment on "Ship dismantling and pre-cleaning of ships" (June 2007) (pdf~2,2Mb)
Recent and ongoing research projects (DG Research):
SHIPDISMANTL Cost-effective and environmentally sound dismantling of obsolete vessels. The project was funded with 1.5m EUR under the 6th European Research Framework Programme (FP6).
SHIPMATES Shiprepair to maintain transport which is environmentally sustainable. The project was funded with 2.150.000 EUR under the 6th European Research Framework Programme (FP6).
DIVEST Dismantling of Vessels with Enhanced Safety and Technology. Project foreseen under the 7th European Research Framework Programme (FP7).
Work of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) on ship recycling:
Ship Recycling Convention / current work in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO):
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has just adopted the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The new instrument takes a "cradle to grave approach" and will regulate:
IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling
These non-binding guidelines were adopted by the IMO Assembly in December 2003 and amended in December 2005.
For this and further information, see IMO website.
Basel Convention: The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is relevant for ship dismantling, as a ship that is sent for scrapping usually contains hazardous materials and may be (hazardous) waste as well as a ship under other international conventions. The Conferences of the Parties (COPs) of the Basel Convention have adopted Technical Guidelines and various decisions on this issue, and the Secretariat has collected information on ship dismantling. For further information see the website.
In January 2008, the EU submitted to the Basel Convention Secretariat an Assessment on ship dismantling with particular reference to the levels of control and enforcement established by the Basel Convention and the expected level of control and enforcement to be provided by the draft Ship Recycling Convention in their entirety.
International Labour Organisation (ILO)
The ILO has adopted in 2004 technical guidelines on ship dismantling: "Safety and Health in Shipbreaking - Guidelines for Asian countries and Turkey". See website.
Joint ILO/IMO/Basel Convention Working Group on Ship Scrapping
ILO, IMO and Basel Convention have set up a Joint Working Group on Ship Scrapping, in order to coordinate their activities on this issue and remove gaps and overlaps of the respective guidelines. The Joint Working Group has held two sessions in 2005 and one in October 2008.
For details see: http://www.basel.int/ships/jimbwg.html. The report of the third session is accessible at: http://www.basel.int/ships/ilo-imo-bc-WG3Report.pdf.
National legislation and ship recycling strategies
United Kingdom: UK Ship Recycling Strategy (February 2007)
Report of the Inter-ministerial mission on ship dismantling (MIDN, April 2007)
Parliamentary report on the dismantling of warships (January 2007)
Voluntary action by industry
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), in cooperation with other industry organisations, has developed an Industry Code of Practice on Ship Recycling (August 2001). For more information see ICS website.
The shipping organisation BIMCO has developed a standard contract for the sale of vessels for recycling.
The Industry Working Group on Ship Recycling has in July 2007 agreed on a recommendation concerning "Interim Measures for Shipowners Intending to Sell Ships for Recycling" .
In October 2007, the International Ship Recycling Association (I.S.R.A.) was founded with the aim to promote sustainable ship recycling and create a level playing field for operators worldwide. See website http://www.isra-dis.com/.
Action by non-governmental organisations
Robin des Bois (NGO involved in maritime security and environment) publishes regular information bulletins and annual surveys on shipbreaking in French and English, see: www.robindesbois.org (page on "démolition des navires").