March 10, 2017 – Five European ship recycling yards announced yesterday that they have joined forces to effectively raise awareness of existing best practice and the fact that there is capacity in Europe to properly recycle ships. The newly established European Ship Recyclers Group (ESR) aims at reaching out to ship owners that are looking for clean and safe ship recycling. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform can only welcome this step and vows to support their efforts in attracting more business as long as they maintain sustainable practices.
The European Union approved 18 ship recycling facilities with a total capacity of 1.1 million LDT under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation in December last year. All 18 facilities are located within the EU and the newly established ESR represents five of these yards – from France (Port of Bordeaux), Belgium (Galloo), Denmark (Smedegaarden), the Netherlands (Scheepssloperij) and Spain (DDR). The European Commission is currently revising 18 additional applications from facilities located outside the EU. To make it on the EU list of approved facilities, yards need to prove that they are able to contain pollutants, ensure safe working conditions and the environmentally sound management of all wastes derived from the recycling activities. Facilities that operate on tidal beaches are not expected to make it on the EU list.
Whilst ship recycling facilities in Europe, as in the US and China, currently operate under-capacity because they are unable to compete with the higher prices offered by the beaching yards in South Asia, the EU list comes with a promise of raising the profile of yards that have already invested in infrastructure and technologies to ensure safe and clean practices.
“ESR’s main goals are to unite all European ship recycling yards and let the ship owners know that there is capacity for ship recycling in Europe. Our message is a clear, if we can handle them, let’s keep the EU-flagged ships in Europe,” says Peter Wyntin of Galloo, chairman of ESR. “ESR will be in close contact with local and EU governments to make sure substandard and unlicensed recycling practices also within Europe are ended,” Wyntin added.
Ship owners are regrettably quick in rejecting European recyclers under the false pretext that there is no capacity in Europe. European yards today primarily recycle government-owned and smaller vessels, but questioned by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform in 2013, almost all European yards expressed that a promise of an increased market share of the commercially owned vessels would prompt investments to enlarge their facilities, or use currently dormant locations, to enable the recycling of also the largest ships.
To effectively push ship owners towards using EU approved yards, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is calling for an incentive that will help close the financial gap between dirty and dangerous shipbreaking and proper ship recycling. The shipping industry needs to internalise the environmental and human costs of shipbreaking. The recently proposed Ship Recycling Licence does exactly that  and received support from the European Economic and Social Committee that in October adopted an opinion calling for “a financial mechanism to end beaching”.
“Ship owners cannot continue to ignore European recyclers and companies that have the capacity and will to provide solutions that can put an end to the scandalous conditions we are witnessing in South Asia. Only last week two more workers were killed at the shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, Bangladesh – the destination where most end-of-life gross tonnage was scrapped in 2016.  Commitment to use EU listed facilities is what we expect from any shipping company that calls itself socially responsible,” said Ingvild Jenssen, Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.