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Cost-Effective and Environmentally Sound Dismantling of Obsolete Vessels

This research project addresses the ship-recycling problem by developing innovative dismantling and recycling procedures, developing a decision support system (DSS) for the ship-breaking industry and by validating the proposed tools and methodologies through a real case study.

Tags: Water


With its last expansion, the European Union now has the largest fleet in the world. Therefore the problem of ship recycling in the EU is important, particularly after the adoption of new regulations that ban the sailing of single hull tankers which do not conform to the new MARPOL convention. This new situation covers worldwide shipping and there is the prospect of these regulations being extended to bulk carriers. This means many ship owners will be obliged to withdraw their ships gradually and replace them with new double-hulled ones. It is therefore evident that the demand for ship recycling is expected to rise in the near future. Despite its importance, the vast volume of ship-dismantling activities is performed in a rather unacceptable manner. The whole procedure is rather bottom based, far from being optimal, environmentally friendly and labour considerate. Workers are unaware of the hazards to which they are likely to be exposed. A number of fatal accidents have occurred in the past as a result of explosions, fires and heavy metal plates falling from the upper parts of the ships. Moreover the local environment is heavily polluted. From the above, one can easily conclude that the practices currently followed are far from optimal with a severe impact on both the environment and the workers; the related processes are also ineffective and inefficient.


The specific objectives of the project are:

  • to develop generic guidelines for innovative ship-dismantling and recycling operations consisting of the optimal design of a prototype ship-dismantling site, the optimisation of ship-breaking facilities and dismantling processes with respect to environmental, cost and energy issues, as well as to issues concerning occupational hazards (related to workers’ safety and health).
  • to amend, according to the above generic guidelines, already operational ship-breaking yards, which are currently active in dismantling. The final designs will be optimised through the use of dynamic simulation software tools.
  • to develop a decision support system (DSS) for the ship-breaking industry, which will take into consideration the existing facilities and dismantling methodologies of the given ship breaker, the type, history and the particular characteristics of the ship and the third parties’ reports (including the inventory of hazardous material on board).
  • to support the decision of acceptance (or not) of a given obsolete vessel for dismantling at a given site, based on the comparison of the available against the required infrastructure.
  • to validate the proposed IS tools and methodologies through real case studies.
Cutting of a beached ship
Cutting of a beached ship

Description of work

The project is divided into seven work packages (WP).

WP1 concerns project management and coordination issues.

WP2 is devoted to a thorough investigation into the identification and assessment of all the parameters involved in dismantling, such as strategies, methodologies and procedures, hazardous materials, health and safety problems, cost and energy parameters, and new technologies which may be introduced to the ship-breaking industry and contribute to environmental, health and safety issues.

WP3 concerns research towards the production of guidelines for the establishment of environmental, waste treatment, and occupational safety and health management plans.

WP4 deals with the development of innovative dismantling strategies and procedures. More specifically, a generic approach to the optimal design of a prototype-dismantling site is developed in the first part of the work package, which covers layout and processing issues. The proposed design is performed in a collaborative way, through experimentation by dynamic simulation.

WP5 is devoted to the development of a fully operational decision support system for ship-breaking processes (DSS-SBP).

WP6 will first deal with the amendment of the existing infrastructure of a full and a partial dismantling site, according to the output provided by WP4.

Finally, WP7 includes activities towards the proper and effective exploitation and dissemination of the scientific results and technology transfer.


Some important project deliverables are:

  1. Processes for safe removal of hazardous substances and their secure disposal
  2. Environmental, occupational safety and health management plans
  3. Generic guidelines for optimal ship-breaking facilities
  4. DSS-SBP analysis
  5. Optimal design and re-organisation of active dismantling sites dealing with full and partial dismantling
  6. Implementation of the containment system for the full dismantling site
  7. Real case application, assessment for full dismantling
  8. Results analysis of both improved sites and DSS.
The results of the project are expected to have a significant impact if adopted by ship-breaking yards. The environmental pollution will be decreased and labour safety will improve. Moreover on a policy-making level, the project's results will stress the importance of the ‘green passport’ concept, or at least the existence of an inventory of hazardous materials on the ship to be dismantled. The DSS tool that is going to be developed is expected to assist ship-breaking yards to the acceptance or not of candidate ships to be broken in order to ensure a more sound and environmentally friendly dismantling procedure.

Workers carrying pieces of the ship
Workers carrying pieces of the ship