‘Green’ ship breaking facility planned in South Africa

23rd September 2020 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South Africa’s national development finance institution, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), is backing a project to establish an environment-friendly ship-scrapping facility in the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone on the country’s west coast. The new facility, to be named 34South, is formally described as a ‘green ship recycling facility’. The IDC will be the largest shareholder in 34South.

Consultancy and research firm Frost & Sullivan Africa consulting analyst Yaa Agyare-Dwomoh pointed out in a research note that the vast majority of the world’s ship breaking takes place in just three countries in South Asia. Calculated in terms of gross tonnage of ocean-going commercial ships scrapped, last year Pakistan accounted for 22% of the global total, India for 26% and Bangladesh for 42% – for a combined total of 90%. (Turkey accounted for 5%, China 2%, the European Union 1% and the rest of the world 2%.)

Most ship breaking in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan is done in a rudimentary fashion. The vessels to be scrapped are run on to a beach (‘beaching’) and then demolished, largely by means of manual labour. 

“The demolition of ships is a hazardous and labour-intensive process,” she noted. “It can present great risks to the maritime environment and to the labour rights of its employees if the vessel is not recycled in a safe and sustainable manner.”

But growing awareness of environmental, and health and safety, issues, is changing attitudes. Evolving environmental legislation and stakeholder pressure has been important in this trend.

“[G]reen compliant facilities that offer competitive vessel purchase prices are gaining increased prominence in the global ship breaking industry,” she reported. “The shift in the industry is further promoted by shipping companies implementing their own internal stringent ship recycling regulations that ensure their end-of-life vessels are recycled in compliant facilities.”

The location of the 34South facility is seen as ideal for ships being sent for scrapping in South Asia, going round the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas to avoid paying the fees for transiting the Suez Canal. 34South will employ the latest technology and will raise the vessels to be scrapped out of the water with a ship lift. 

Use of a ship lift will allow the scrapping to be done in an environment-friendly manner. As the ship lift will be able to handle more than one vessel at a time, it will also permit economies of scale in the operation.