How to recycle passenger ferries safely and legally

HFW’s William MacLachlan advises how ferry operators can stay on the right side of the law when they sell their older ferries for recycling

How to recycle passenger ferries safely and legally
Ferry operators must comply with strict regulations when recycling their old vessels (Image: IMO)

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Ferries tend to have a bespoke design and a solid construction built to serve their owner for many years. Although ferries often enjoy careers that last far longer than their counterparts in other shipping sectors, there does come a point when even the best are no longer profitable and their operators must move them on. But, with demand for second-hand ferries in the Mediterranean at an all-time low and a reduced market in other parts of the world, operators now have fewer options when it comes to disposing of their older vessels safely and legally.   

One avenue for operators who may have previously sold their older ferries for further trading is to explore their options for recycling them instead. However, ferry operators must do this with great care because of the increasing scrutiny of ship recycling practices from the European Union (EU) and authorities in several other countries. They must also be aware of the growing confidence of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of environmental, human and labour rights organisations that aims to prevent the recycling of end-of-life ships via the beaching method in developing countries.

There have recently been several high-profile claims against, and successful prosecutions of, shipowners following their disposal of end-of-life tonnage to Asian recyclers. Fear of being the next to be prosecuted and publicly lambasted has led many operators to re-evaluate the way in which they dispose of older vessels. It has also encouraged a growing number of ship finance banks to oblige their borrowers to recycle their vessels responsibly.

The EU Ship Recycling Regulation, which implements the requirements of the 2009 Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, already requires European shipowners to comply with a complicated export process for any ships they sell for recycling while in Europe. From 31 December 2018, vessels flying the flag of an EU Member State may only be recycled in one of the 21 facilities named on the EU’s approved list. Currently all of the approved facilities are within the EU and news of further non-EU additions to this list is long overdue.

Owners might try to circumvent such regulations, but if they do, they must fully understand the risks involved. Those operating outside of the EU cannot escape the issue either because many national authorities are increasingly willing to apply the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

Ferries enjoy more public scrutiny than almost any other shipping sector. Consequently, ferry operators who have not already done so should be adding compliant ship recycling to their list of regulatory obligations if they want to ensure they do not fall foul of public perception and the law.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Thursday, January 17, 2019