This week a monstrous natural gas ship arrived in the port of Ghent to be scrapped by the biggest ship scrapping concern in Europe, Van Heyghen Recycling.
At its 10-hectare scrap yard with its mountains of steel and iron, enormous cranes move scrap from one mountain to the next. In the background lies the Tellier, a 200-metre natural gas tanker weighing 11 000 tons which transported natural gas between Algeria and France for years before owner GDF Suez decided last year that it’s journeys have come to an end and Van Heyghen was awarded the contract. CEO Bernard Beyne hopes to gain about 10 000 tons of steel, 500 tons of inox, 100 tons of non-ferrous materials and 400 tons of timber. “Ship dismantling is a division of our business which has grown enormously during the past ten years,” says Beyne. “This is primarily due to our unique location along the Ghent-Terneurzen channel, our 800-metre quay and 38-metre wide slipway to remove ships from the water.” India alone takes 3 million tons a year of the total of 8 million global scrapping capacity while Bangadesh stands at 1.7 million.
Most large ships are sold to phantom companies and end up in scrap yards or beaches in India and Bangladesh, where environmental demands and labour conditions are negligible. It comes as no surprise that only 2% of oceangoing ships are scrapped in Europe. In India a scrap yard pays 20 000 dollars in labour to scrap a ship weighing 10 000 tons. In Belgium the price tag is 250 000 dollars. This trend has however changed during the past five years, with Western authorities and major listed companies like GDF Suez pressurized by shareholders and action groups to opt for European or American scrap yards which honour environmental laws. Van Heyghen has the asbestos on old ships removed by specialists contractors before other toxic and non-toxic waste, ‘precious’ objects and reusable components sloops, anchors, chains are removed and the hull dismantled from the top. The scrapping of the Tellier will take one year, of which eight to ten months will be on the quay and the rest at the dry dock.
Profit margins in this industry are hardly above 5%, as scrapping companies often have to resort to guesswork when estimating the amount of steel, precious metals and toxic components on a ship. The price has nevertheless doubled from 100 – 200 to 300 – 400 dollars per ton since 2005.
Low margins cause Van Heyghen to focus on volume. Says Beyne: “We currently remove 20 000 tons of scrap per annum, but need to increase that to 40 000.” Van Heyghen scraps about 50 ships each year, of which 40 are small vessels and about 10 are bigger ships weighing more than 1 000 tons. The Ghent-based scrapping company recently started to specialize in larger vessels such as dredgers, frigates and naval minesweepers, focusing on clients who fall under the stricter European legislation.
Source: Expatica. 7 May 2012http://www.expatica.com/be/news/belgian-news/ship-scrapping-in-ghent_225743.html