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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Recycling generates a lot of heat

The issue of the recycling of the 13 ships of the US Navy’s supply fleet is generating a lot of heat and light right now.

On the face of it, the sale of these ships to British company Able UK for drydock dismantling on Teeside in the UK fulfils a number of the criteria normally ‘required’ to satisfy the environmentalists: the ships are to be dismantled in the West, using western labour and under western conditions in the controlled environment of a drydock, rather than on the bare beaches of the Indian subcontinent. Contrary to the objectors’ assumption that the hazardous materials on board these ships will end up in the sea, the intention is that they will end up in the drydock for onward disposal in designated sites.

Should that not satisfy those who criticise tanker operators who do all they can to reduce toxic waste on board and who may sell to China, sometimes even at a discount, so as to have their tanker recycled as cleanly and efficiently as possible?

It should. But the storm of protest that has broken out over these 13 ships eclipses anything surrounding something as simple and straightforward as a tanker sale to Pakistan or Bangladesh. Injunction sought in the US to prevent the first two ships leaving - judge refuses to grant injunction - UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspecting the ships for seaworthiness - no objections from the UK Secretary of State for Maritime Salvage and Intervention to the trans-Atlantic tow of the first two ships - but furious objections from UK planning authorities, who are said to have refused Able’s application for a new drydock.

What is comes down to is that a significant number of people want no ships at all to be dismantled anywhere near their patch - or near anyone else’s patch either. But it’s one of those dirty, dangerous jobs that has to be done somewhere, in a way that makes it as clean and as safe as possible. The Able UK/US Navy situation looks as though it has some way to run before the situation will become any clearer.