In the coming decade, we’re expecting to see a significant increase in the recycling of ships. This is because more and more ships are moving towards emission-free operations, and the global fleet of merchant vessels is growing. In the last ten years, around 7,780 ships were scrapped, but in the next decade, we anticipate this number to rise to 15,000 ships with a combined carrying capacity of 600 million tons, compared to 285 million tons in the previous decade.
This shift towards ship recycling is driven by new regulations that require clean and safe dismantling of ships. At the same time, the steel industry, which is one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide, is under pressure to reduce its emissions by about 30% by 2030 in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Most of these emissions in steel production come from the blast furnace.
Ship dismantling offers a sustainable solution because it allows for the recycling of steel without any loss of quality. In fact, recycling one ton of steel from ships can save around 1.6 tons of CO2 emissions.
In June 2022, a pilot project began in Kiel to demonstrate an almost emission-free method for ship dismantling. This project uses ANT AG’s waterjet technology, and a similar pilot project is planned for Bremen. The waterjet system can generate a high-pressure jet capable of cutting steel plates up to one meter thick at 2500 bar. It can cut 10-millimeter-thick ship steel at a speed of about 2 meters per minute. This cutting system can be controlled remotely and positioned close to the steel being cut. It works by using a suspension of water and abrasive material.
One of the major advantages of waterjet cutting is that it doesn’t produce any CO2 emissions, fumes, slag, or sparks, reducing the risk of fires and explosions. The contactless cutting process also doesn’t generate heat or deform the material being cut. Moreover, the waterjet can work from the outside to the inside, preventing contamination of the surroundings and allowing challenging materials, such as gas tanks made of invar, to be cut into any size. The waterjet system is flexible and can be operated from a distance of up to 500 meters.
Each year, many ships around the world are taken out of service and dismantled. The steel recovered from these ships is a valuable resource. To promote environmentally friendly ship recycling and ensure safe working conditions, global regulations like the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships and the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SSR) are being put in place. The EU SSR, for instance, will become effective on June 26, 2025.