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More ship recycling options for European owners as EU revises ‘waste’ definition

Photo: GMS Ship recycling workers in a yard
Owners of EU-flagged ships will now be able to dispose of vessels for recycling at demolition yards on the Indian subcontinent provided that they meet European Union Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) criteria.

This follows an agreement by the European Union (EU) and the European Council on a revised definition of ‘waste’.

Under the Basel Convention, the export of ‘waste’ from OECD nations to non-OECD countries has been forbidden and until now, end-of-life ships have been classed as waste. This has been a subject of much debate since most end-of-life ships head to breaking yards under their own power and, in a rising market, are sometimes sold for further trading.

However, the EU SRR prevents the sale of end-of-life ships to yards in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh because none has yet been approved under the bloc’s own regulation. The ban includes a significant number of recycling facilities in India, and several in Bangladesh, that have been approved by international classification societies as compliant with the IMO’s Hong Kong Convention, the international framework.

Therefore, there is still a mismatch between international regulations, embodied in the IMO’s Convention, due to enter force on June 26, 2025, and the EU’s own regulation. European owners still have limited options on recycling end-of-life ships, with yards in the Aliaga region of Turkey, an OECD country, one of the only options.

Recycling yards elsewhere in Europe are a possibility, but there is little appetite for ship recycling across the continent. There is weak demand for scrap steel and poor prices for other recycled materials. European yards would certainly not match the prices paid for end-of-life ships on the Indian subcontinent, currently around $500 per light displacement ton (ldt).   

A statement from Danish Shipping on Friday stated that the new agreement on waste shipments "opens the door for responsible recycling of EU-flagged ships outside the EU and OECD". The deal is likely to be welcomed by European owners and operators as they face the prospect of a widescale clear-out of older tonnage in the months ahead.

Danish Shipping’s Nina Porst, Director of Climate, Environment and Safety at Danish Shipping commented: “We expect that a growing number of ships will be recycled over the coming years, so I am very pleased that an agreement on waste shipments has been reached. Recycling of ships must always be done in a safe, responsible, and environmentally sound manner and we believe this new agreement will help secure exactly that.”