ECSA challenges NGOs’ claim that EU has adequate ship recycling capacity

NGO Shipbreaking Platform claims that the EU has sufficient capacity at the 20 EU-approved yards to meet EU owners’ recycling needs. Credit: Ship Recyclers’ Association of Turkey
NGO Shipbreaking Platform claims that the EU has sufficient capacity at the 20 EU-approved yards to meet EU owners’ recycling needs. Credit: Ship Recyclers’ Association of Turkey

Shipowners’ body the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) has challenged claims from NGOs that there is already sufficient capacity in the European Union to meet the recycling needs of European shipowners without having to resort to “dangerous, polluting yards abroad”.

NGO groupings NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Transport & Environment claimed in a report this week that the 20 European yards already on the EU list of approved facilities would be enough to meet recycling needs after the EU Ship Recycling Regulation comes into force on 1 January next year.

“The shipping industry wants low-cost shipbreaking yards outside the EU – with dangerous working conditions and environmental standards – 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 comes into force on 1 January 2019,” NGO Shipbreaking Platform said in a press release on Monday.

“But 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 show.”

The report’s claim is disputed by ECSA, which said the recycling requirements of the EU-flagged fleet risked being much greater than could be catered for by currently available capacity on the EU list.

“We were and still are worried that there is not enough capacity,” said ECSA secretary general Martin Dorsman, “and certainly welcome the [European] Commission’s current efforts to enlarge the list.”

ECSA, which has previously argued in favour of approving non-EU yards that meet the standards of the Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling, said it welcomed the inspections of non-European ship recycling facilities currently being carried out by the European Commission. When these facilities were found to be compliant, it said, they should be added to the EU list.

The owners’ body estimated that, taking recycled EU ships and EU ships reflagged for recycling together, recently published EU figures indicated that recycling carried out over the 2013–17 period ran at an average of more than 1 million ldt/year. But it argued that this figure could rise to close to 2 million ldt in certain years.

The EU figures show that, over the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, the volume of EU ships recycled or flagged out for recycling peaked in 2013 at 1.62 million ldt, according to ECSA.

IMO and other international figures show, however, that, over the past 10 years, 2012 was the busiest for recycling, with volume worldwide exceeding the 2013 total by 23%.

That increase applied to the 2013 EU total would have produced a total of 1.99 million ldt, it said, a total which it claimed was much greater than existing EU recyclers could handle.

“The European shipowners’ wish is to ensure safe and sound recycling of their ships in an economically viable way,” said Dorsman. “In case the recycling yards in the European list will have capacity enough for our shipowners’ end-of-life ships, they would welcome the news of course.”

ECSA said that it should also be taken into account that capacity at many recycling yards was also devoted to other activities such as ship repair and offshore work and the fact that only one approved EU yard currently had the capacity to accommodate the largest ocean-going vessels for recycling purposes.

In addition, it said, many EU-flagged vessels operating worldwide did not call at EU ports, making it necessary for recycling yards to be available worldwide. NGO Shipbreaking Platform director Ingvild Jenssen dismissed the owners’ claims that existing EU capacity was insufficient, however, as a “red herring”.

“Alternatives to beaching end-of-life ships exist,” she said. “It boils down to not accepting the low occupational safety and environmental protection standards that allow many unapproved yards to operate cheaply.”

Transport & Environment shipping officer Lucy Gilliam said, “There is no excuse for sending ships to dangerous and polluting yards on beaches overseas.”

Implementation of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation is due to be discussed at a meeting on 3 October involving European Commission officials, national experts, and other stakeholders.