New EU regime for safer and greener ship recycling enters into force

January 8, 2019 – From 31 December 2018, the recycling of all large sea-going vessels sailing under an EU flag can only take place in yards included in the European List of ship recycling facilities. This is the result of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation – the only legally binding and comprehensive instrument on ship recycling in force in the world today, which aims to make ship recycling greener and safer. The European list contains currently 26 yards, most of them located in the EU, but also in Turkey and the USA, and additional yards are expected to be included in the list in the future.

European ship owners own 35% of the world fleet. A large percentage of these is being dismantled in South Asia, under conditions often harmful to workers’ health and the environment. With the full entry into force of the EU Regulation on ship recycling, this will no longer be possible for EU-flagged vessels, which will have to get dismantled in EU-listed yards. Through this initiative, the EU is leading the way to improve social and environmental conditions under which ships are recycled.

On this occasion, Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries visited today one of the busiest ship recycling yards in Europe in Ghent (Belgium), to witness first-hand the reality of ship recycling in Europe and exchange views with representatives of this industry.

Commissioner Vella said: “For too long, EU vessels have been dismantled in poor environmental and social conditions. This is not acceptable any longer. The full entry into force of the EU Regulation on ship recycling is a milestone for this sector, as it provides for the first time clear and specific rules on how EU-flagged vessels should be recycled. Like other recycling activities, ship recycling can be carried out sustainably, in a way which is good for workers, the environment and the economy. This is what is happening at the Ghent ship recycling yard and this is what the EU aims at. We count on all actors in the sector to work constructively with us to make it happen.”

The Ship Recycling Regulation adopted in 2013 aims to reduce the negative impacts linked to the recycling of ships flying the flag of EU Member States, laying down requirements that ships and recycling facilities have to fulfil in order to make sure that ship recycling takes place in an environment sound and safe manner. The list is drawn up by the Commission, in close cooperation with the EU Member States, and regularly updated to include yards complying with strict safety and environmental standards.

The Commission is currently assessing applications to join the EU list from more than 20 additional yards, located mostly in India and Turkey. At the international level, the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted in 2009 but has not entered into force as it has been ratified by an insufficient number of Parties. In the absence of global specific rules on ship recycling, the EU Regulation is the only dedicated legally binding framework regulating these activities. The ship recycling industry — which dismantles old and decommissioned ships enabling the re-use of valuable materials — is a major supplier of steel and an important part of the economy in many countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

The recycling of scrap metals from ships also reduces the need for mining, an environmentally damaging practice. In this way, it is a vital part of the circular economy, which purports to minimise waste and recycle some materials infinitely.