The first step towards sustainable ship-recycling of EU navies, the path of RECYSHIP
When the United Kingdom decided to sale the Invincible on the internet, first reaction for many was of shock, laugh and disbelieve. However, once all the conditions and the evaluation criteria for the designation of the final destination of the ship are read, things start to get serious.
The majority of the ships sold for scrapping, including navy ships, are usually sold as “ships”. Whoever wants it has to buy it as a product forgetting the basics of residues management within the EU. As it is stated in article 1 of the Directive 2006/12/EU on Waste, “‘waste’ shall mean any substance or object […] which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard”.
With private ships it is complicated to control when a ship stops being such and becomes a residue. There are studies trying to set parameters that may help identifying those ships, however, there is a complicated legal controversy there.
With public ships is a totally different issue. When a government decides to get rid of a ship, not only navy ships, also abandoned or confiscated ships sold by authorities, although there are possible alternatives to scrapping, as transforming it to a museum or a pleasure ship, most of them end up in scrap-yards. However, they are always sold as a ship, as a thing, not as a residue, allowing anyone to bet and making it impossible for scrap-yards to get them for a price that may let them do things in a sustainable way.
The UK has changed that concept. The invincible is a proof of it. It may end up as a museum, if the project presented by a Chinese Businessman proves a proper reconversion, but if it ends up in a scrap-yard, the evaluation criteria followed by the MOD and the conditions and minimum standards that the tender must fulfil do not allow anyone to offer for the ship (see attached annexes K and J from the disposal of the HMS Invincible A111). The ship is, finally, sold as an “unlisted residue”.
If all administrations and authorities followed the same basis, surely the industry of ship recycling would re-develop within EU borders bringing jobs and wealth and solving the problems of one of the forgotten toxic residues that we still produce and do not bother controlling just yet.