The dismantling of ships is often a risky process, with potential hazards to people and environment. Yearly between 200 and 600 large ships are broken up and recycled. Steel and other scrap metal and equipment are valuable raw materials.

Sub-standard environmental protection and safety measures leads to a high risk of accidents as well as health risks and extensive pollution of coastal areas, resulting from many hazardous materials, including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributyl tin and large quantities of oils and oil sludge.

In recent years this industry has attracted attention from authorities and organizations as well as from media.

The main ship recycling countries are Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Turkey. The yearly number of ships scrapped vary depending on several factors, like the state of the freight market and the price for ship steel obtained in different economies. Differences in labour and environmental compliance costs for recycling are important factors that contribute to the development of this industry in certain areas.

Many international organizations, national authorities and industrial companies have been working on this topic, both separately and together.

Basel convention and ship dismantling

The Basel Convention has published “Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial Dismantling of Ships” in 2002. This is one of the more important guidelines for maritime health professionals.