Ship recycling

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The EU Regulation on ship recycling aims to reduce the negative impacts linked to the recycling of EU-flagged ships and to ensure that, as of 31 December 2020, ships calling at EU ports or anchorages either possess an inventory certificate (for EU-flagged ships), or a certificate of compliance (for ships flagged in non-EU Member States). These prove that the ship in question has an approved inventory of hazardous materials on board.

The Regulation lays down requirements that ships and recycling facilities must fulfil to make sure that ship recycling takes place in an environmentally sound and safe manner. According to the new rules, the installation or use of certain hazardous materials on ships, such as asbestos, ozone-depleting substances, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), perfluorooctanesulphonic acid (PFOS) and anti-fouling compounds, is prohibited or restricted.

Each ship, irrespective of its flag, is required to have on board an inventory of hazardous materials approved by its flag state by 2020. From 2019 onwards, large commercial seagoing vessels flying the flag of an EU Member State may be recycled only in safe and sound ship recycling facilities included in the European List of ship recycling facilities.

Ship recycling in the EU registered a peak in 2017 (with 40 ships recycled, equalling a total of 21 000 LDT, or light displacement tonnes); however, that amount was reduced to 4 500 LDT in 2019. A total of 211 ships were recycled in EU facilities between 2014 and 2019, mainly in Denmark and Belgium.

However, outside the EU, many large ships are still dismantled in ship recycling facilities which operate under poor environmental standards and safety conditions. Some of the techniques may involve so-called ‘tidal beaching’, by which the ship is taken ashore on a high tide and therefore becomes easily accessible from the beach. This process exerts pressures on the environment, as hazardous materials that may be present on board, such as oils, asbestos or toxic paints, could be released into the local environment, disrupting biodiversity.

EMSA’s role: ship recycling

EMSA has released a number of studies and important technical documents on ship recycling, including guidance on inspections of ships by port States in accordance with Regulation (EU) 1257/2013 on ship recycling, a study of two hazardous substances (PFOS and HBCDD) included in the annexes of regulation (EU) 1257/2013 on ship recycling, guidance on the inventory of hazardous materials, and a study on the certification of ship recycling facilities.

EMSA supported the European Commission within the framework of the Committee established under Regulation (EU) 1257/2013 on ship recycling, in particular regarding the drafting of the Commission Notice for “Guidelines on the enforcement of obligations under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation relating to the Inventory of Hazardous Materials of vessels operating in European waters” (2020/C 349/01), in view of the entry into force of this obligation by December 2020.

EMSA also released a dedicated module in THETIS-EU for the recording of inspections on the inventories of hazardous materials, to support the Regulation.

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