EU Accredits First U.S. Shipbreaker for Recycling

EU accredited shipbreaking
Norwegian flagged MT Wolverine recently arrived in Texas at the shipbreakers (International Shipbreaking)

Published Mar 3, 2021 2:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United States has its first shipbreaking site to gain EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SSR) accreditation. In an industry historically known for dangerous working conditions and unsafe environmental practices, achieving this certification demonstrated adherence to best practices in ship recycling and the handling of toxic materials found aboard the obsolete ships being sent to the breakers.

International Shipbreaking, part of EMR Metal Recycling, reports that it invested $30 million to make its site in Brownsville, Texas, compliant with the EU regulations. Having achieved the EU accreditation, the yard is now available to EU shipowners and ships flying the flags of EU member states which are required to go to an accredited shipbreaker. According to the company, the EU regulations set standards for environmental and health and safety compliance which go above and beyond stringent US regulatory requirements. Among the EU requirements that the yard meets are that ships are completely recycled on hard surfaces to avoid pollutants such as chemicals from paints contaminating the soil and water. 

The EU SRR came about after numerous reports about the unsafe shipbreaking practices at most of the scrapyards around the world. The rules aim to establish standards for the safe practices and work environments and were designed to help ship owners act responsibly. Despite the efforts of the EU, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform still reports that more than 90 percent of the world’s end-of-life vessels were broken up on the beaches of South East Asia in rudimentary conditions. Banks and investors, however, are increasing pressuring shipping companies into following environmentally sensitive recycling projects.

The cruise industry, for example, has been using the scrapyards in Southeast Asia to dispose of old ships. In 2020, however, when both Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group sent ships for breaking, they used the yards in Turkey that have EU accreditation. Carnival also highlighted that it brought in consultants to work with the yard to ensure that the appropriate materials were harvested and recycled from the retired ships.

Brownsville, Texas has long been the home of the U.S. shipbreaking industry tracing its modern operations to the post-World War II era and the U.S. Government’s first efforts to cull its fleets. International Shipbreaking was established in 1995 and since then the company reports it has handled over 100 vessels at its 43-acre yard that can handle up to nine ships at a time. Among some of the high-profile ships handled at the facility was the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Constellation that arrived at the yard in 2015. Recently, the U.S. Navy delivered both its 1950s vintage destroyer the USS Barry, and one of its first guided-missile destroyers the USS Charles F. Adams to be dismantled by International Shipbreaking.

The MT Wolverine, a 15-year old 16,000 dwt chemical tanker became the first European ship to arrive at the yard since the accreditation. The vessel, which was registered in Norway, arrived at International Shipbreaking in January 2021 to be recycled.

“There is a big future in this industry and, over the past year we have seen three times the number of inquiries from EU ship owners,” said Chris Green, Senior Manager at International Shipbreaking. “This indicates the shipping industry is taking more responsibility for how their ships are recycled, rather than using the South Asian shipbreaking beaches.”