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New EU Waste Rules Open Door for Ship Recycling Says Danish Shipping

ship recycling
Danish Shipping highlights that the EU's new regulations provide opportunities for ship recycling (GMS file photo)

Published Nov 17, 2023 6:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

The European Parliament and the Council reached political agreement yesterday, November 16, on sweeping new rules designed to place stronger controls on the export of waste and create greater barriers to prevent exporting waste to countries not able to handle the materials. Hailed for its efforts at preventing pollution and environmental inequalities around the world, Danish Shipping highlights that the agreement also “opens the door for responsible recycling of EU-flagged ships,” at a time when the shipping industry is expected to begin a large push to dispose of older ships to meet emerging environmental regulations.

“Danish Shipping is pleased with the new agreement and expects it will raise the standards at ship recycling facilities around the world,” the group which represents the interest of the Danish industry wrote in its statement. 

EU shipping companies have been especially challenged by the lack of authorized recycling options for their retired ships. Only a relatively small number of organizations have met the tough standards for safety and environmental protection presenting challenges to the industry. According to Danish Shipping, the agreement reached yesterday within the EU will provide the opportunity for responsible recycling outside the EU and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The EU says the new agreement overall ensures that members will take greater responsibility for waste and will not export environmental challenges to third countries. The new legislation includes for example a strict ban on the export of plastic waste from the EU to non-OCED countries unless countries meet strict environmental conditions. There are also new provisions for tracking waste and stronger enforcement along with efforts aimed at cooperation in fighting waste trafficking.

Other waste suitable for recycling, however under the new agreement, will be exported from the EU to non-OECD countries when they indicate that they are willing to receive the waste and can deal with it sustainably. According to Danish Shipping, these provisions mean that facilities outside the EU, if they meet EU standards, will now be able to receive EU approval, which gives them an incentive to seek to attract customers with EU-flagged ships. The group writes that they believe this will raise the quality of ship recycling facilities while also providing new options for shipowners.

“Recycling of ships must be done in a safe, responsible, and environmentally sound manner and we believe this new agreement will help secure exactly that,” said Nina Porst, Director of Climate, Environment and Safety at Danish Shipping.

The shipping industry is believed to be on the verge of a wave of recycling both as ships are getting older and new environmental regulations make it harder for older ships to continue in service. Industry trade group BIMCO, for example, recently highlighted that containerships have reached their highest average age ever. Carriers held on to their tonnage and capacity during the last few years as demand surged. Data from Linerlytica shows however that the number of containerships going to the breakers jumped dramatically in 2023 with more than 80 ships sent to the yards this year. Yet, that represents less than 150,000 TEU capacity with many more ships idled.

“We expect that a growing number of ships will be recycled over the coming years, so I am very pleased that an agreement on waste shipments has been reached. Increasing the global facility capacity for recycling ships according to the high EU safety and environmental standards is good news for all parties,” said Porst.

The European Parliament and the Council have to formally adopt the regulation in line with the political agreement reached last night. The agreement is expected to be formally approved before the end of the year.