Ship dismantling, also commonly referred to as ship “recycling”, is an inherently sustainable activity, the benefits of which are felt at the global level. As the term ship “recycling” implies, value is derived from the materials and equipment comprising end of life ships: the scrap steel is melted down and is commonly used in the construction industries of ship recycling countries, and equipment (engines, mechanical parts or furniture) is refurbished and reused in other industries.
The industry is based predominantly in South Asia (in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan), which according to 2010 statistics, occupies approximately 70% of the global ship recycling market. Significant recycling activity also takes place in China (19%), with Turkey and other countries occupying the remaining 10% of the market. Beaching is the predominant method of ship recycling in the South Asian Region, whilst China and some other countries employ an alternative method known as pier breaking.
The past decade has seen a substantial variation in the level of activity in the industry. The supply of ships for recycling is subject to large variations as a consequence of the global demand for seaborne transport. From 2004 to 2008, the high demand for maritime transportation resulted in a record low number of ships being sold for recycling (only between 200 to 400 ships per annum, whereas the historical average is between 700 to 800 ships).
However, with the global economic recession in recent years, the demand for maritime transportation has declined. As a result, recycling activity peaked in 2009, with some 1200 ships being sent for recycling. Figures available until September 2010 indicate that high levels of recycling activity are set to continue.
The Global Programme for Sustainable Ship Recycling was created in 2007 to facilitate improvements in worker health and safety and environmental conditions in ship recycling countries in the South Asia region. The Programme concept has been developed in close consultation with two other international organisations with an interest and expertise in ship recycling: the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Secretariat of the Basel Convention seeks to work with all ship recycling stakeholders to ensure the future sustainability of the industry.
The Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial Dismantling of Ships have been prepared with the intention of providing guidance to countries which have, or wish to establish, facilities for ship dismantling. The guidelines provide information and recommendations on procedures, processes and practices that must be implemented to achieve Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) at such facilities. The guidelines also provide advice on monitoring and verification of environmental performance.
The guidelines are also available in Bengali, Hindi, Turkish and Urdu (Copyright, Part I, Part II)
The first set of guidelines to be developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on ship recycling were adopted by the IMO General Assembly in 2003 by Resolution A.962(23), and amended by Resolution A.980(24) in 2005. These guidelines were developed to provide guidance to flag, port and recycling States, shipowners, shipbuilders, marine equipment suppliers and recycling facilities on "best practices", taking into account the full life cycle of a ship.
At the Diplomatic Conference which adopted the Hong Kong International Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in May 2009, Resolution 4 was adopted, mandating the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO to develop the following sets of guidelines to support the implementation and enforcement of the Hong Kong Convention: