14 December 2013



The purpose of this thesis was to study how ocean-going vessels are permanently withdrawn from operation by dismantling. The intention was to gain an understanding on how the ship dismantling has developed into the current state and what the near future holds for the industry. This thesis concentrates particularly on the impacts that ship dismantling has on the environment – nature and the human. The purpose was to find ways to reduce the environmental impacts.

The dismantling of a ship includes removing the equipment and breaking the hull. Ship dismantling meets many of the characteristics of recycling but on the other hand because of its adverse environmental effects it is rarely referred to as recycling. A very high recycling rate can be reached especially with tanker ships because the share of the ship’s steel hull from the total mass of the vessel is significant.

There have been attempts to regulate the environmental impacts of ship dismantling since the late 1980s. The results have however been poor because the regulations have been easy to avoid. The creation of new stricter and internationally binding laws is very slow. Entering into force is even slower.

95 percent of all commercial vessels are dismantled in South Asia where the labour costs are low and the occupational safety and environmental requirements are minimal. The largest country in the field of ship dismantling is India. The most common method of ship dismantling is to beach a vessel during a high tide. During the low tide ships are cut into pieces manually with gas torches. The process takes place on unprotected beaches. Hazardous substances then spread freely into the ocean and the soil.

The decision of dismantling a ship is made when the maintenance expenses exceed the profits from operating the ship. The utilization rate of a ship is directly comparable to the global economy. During a global economic boom the operators try to avoid breaking their ships because of high freight rates. The ship dismantling industry works inversely compared with the global economy. During the recent recession a record number of ships have been scrapped.

Keywords: ship dismantling, ship recycling, environmental impact

Author: Juho Vuori

Mechanical and Production Engineering | Product Development
Completion of the thesis 15 May 2013

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