Posted by: PARTHA DAS SHARMA | October 1, 2008

Ship-breaking industry – Improved standard needed to keep environment safer

Ship-breaking industry – Improved standard needed to keep environment safer:

Introduction – Ship breaking is a type of recycling industry, involving in recovering scraps out of used and old ships. It is a very complex process involves many environmental, labour, safety and health issue. Ship breaking is the process of dismantling an obsolete vessel’s structure for scrapping and disposal. In other words, old and unserviceable ships are demolished in this industry for business of scraps. It allows material from old ships to be reused. Ship breaking operation is conducted at a beach, pier, drydock, or dismantling slip include variety of operations like removing all gears and equipments to cutting down and recycling the ship’s infrastructure.

Hazardous effects – It is a highly labour intensive industry, and due to that, most of the ship breakers located earlier at developed countries either have stopped the breaking operation or shifted to developing countries like India, Bangladesh, and China etc. The braking of ships is considered to be a dirty and hazardous occupation. Naturally, as of any business, the feasibility of ship-breaking is also largely determined by the market force, i.e., price of scrap metal.

When ship is brought for dismantling, it carries lot of hazardous items, chemicals etc. Breaking them without taking adequate care of human safety, pollutants, and ways for safe disposal of wastes, are quite hazardous job. Hazardous factors involved in Ship breaking operation are: Asbestos; Lead; Chromates; Mercury; Fumes of welding & cutting; Radiation; Noise; Vibration; Air pollution; Low-level radium sources; Organic liquids ( Benzene etc.); Battery, Compressed gas cylinders, firefighting liquids, etc.; Chemical materials; Work using plasma and gas torches; Explosives; Work using cranes and lifting equipment; Saws, Grinders and Abrasive cutting wheels; Accident factors: falling, upsetting, electric shock, etc.

To make the entire operation cheaper, wherever the ship breaking operation is conducted at developing country, there is extremely high rate of exploitation of workers exists with no formal education with them, no / less availability of protective equipments to maintain any safety standard and above all, high rate of corruption among regulators made the situation at a dire state. There exists high level of accidents, occupational diseases among workers; with limited or no medical provisions.

Legislation on ship-breaking – Legislation on ship breaking is in its infancy. The rapidly evolving regulatory framework, is being generated by many different international conventions and organisations. There are international obligations that nations and the shipping and the ship breaking industry have to honour.

What is needed, the country from which the toxic ship arrives needs to alert notify the importing country. The importing country can then take measures for the adequate treatment of these hazardous substances.

Improvement measures – In order to enhance the standard of safety and environmental issue, Government departments of several countries have initiated lot of research; and several proposals and recommendations have been forwarded for implementation. Some of them are:

(a) Design improvement of vessels that would not only make scrapping ships less labour intensive, but also environmentally friendly and profitable;

(b) Consideration of international duration limitations on vessel life cycles;

(c) The establishment of a “Global Scrapping Endowment Fund” in which Shipbuilders would include as part of the construction costs a cash payment to the fund in the amount of the expected costs for the ships eventual demolition;

(d) A ‘Global Scrapping Tax `Fund’ in which taxes would be levied on every ship (according to size and weight) in operation across in globe;

(e) Require ship builders to reacquire control of a vessel when it is due to be demolished and to accept responsibility for the safe and environmentally sound scrapping of each ship.

Governments of developing countries required to implement stricter regulations towards safety, health and environmental issues and implementation of them are to be followed. It may be noted, at present iron and steel prices have gone up; so the price of scraps; this financial benefit, should be extended to the personnel engaged for ship breaking operation. Moreover, environment-friendly entrepreneurs are to be encouraged for this re-cycling industry.

Conclusion – Scrapping ships is one of the most work-intensive and dangerous jobs. As ship breaking industry is re-cycling industry; environmentally it has to be upgraded and it would be everybody’s interest to make this operation as green as possible. Nevertheless, keep continuing recycling industry like ship breaking is beneficial for the society, as it reduces not only pressure on mineral ore mining, the disposal problem is taken care of as well. Therefore, we have to make this ship breaking industry greener and free from exploitation & accident.

ISO Standard to Boost Confidence in Ship Recycling Certification

An ISO standard for bodies providing audit and certification of ship recycling management systems (ISO 30003:2009, Ships and marine technology – Ship recycling management systems) will increase worker safety and environmental protection by facilitating independent recognition of good practice.



  1. I found your site on Google and read a few of your other entires. Nice Stuff. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

  2. iNFORMATION given is v. good We can work for shipbreaking uint in Gujarat,kindly send specific details.

  3. good…usefull

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