An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany

Ship Scrapping

Tim Radek

Ships are an important means of transporting goods in global trade. However, after a lifespan of 20-30 years, their maintenance usually becomes unprofitable for their owners and the vessels are taken out of service. In order to still make as high a profit as possible, they are sold to ship-breaking companies by brokers to extract all raw materials of value, most importantly steel. However this recycling process is problematic, as scrapping often takes place in developing or emerging countries, where little attention is paid to occupational safety and environmental protection. Workers often die in accidents or are harmed by permanent exposure to toxic substances. In addition, numerous hazardous pollutants are released into the environment when the ships are dismantled. They are beached at the ship scrapping yards during high tide. First, the workers punch holes in the hull to vent flammable gases. This also allows seawater to enter the fuel tanks and wash out diesel residues. Then, all furnishings and equipment are removed in order to be sold. At last, the steel hull is cut into pieces for recycling. Among the substances that pose a high risk to the workers’ health, as well as the surrounding environment are oil sludge, asbestos, toxic paints, fuel residues, heavy metals, and many more. In 2018, Greenpeace’s ship Rainbow Warrior II was also scrapped in one of the infamous ship breaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Although the environmental protection organization had contractually secured a veto right against this when selling the ship, they did not make use of this right. In an official statement, they later expressed their regret. The gif was created with digital drawings and analog marblings were used as texture for the oil spills. It aims to raise awareness for the pollution caused by petroleum and other noxious substances.

Sources: Frey, R. Scott, “Breaking Ships in the World-System: An Analysis of Two Ship Breaking Capitals, Alang India and Chittagong, Bangladesh”, CSSJ Working Papers, vol. 13-0, (2013).