by Dr. Anna Bredima* –

The Greek-owned fleet is the biggest in the world. A raft of international technical standards in order to face climate change sends annually a very big number of ships to scrap yards at an increasing pace.

The new air emissions standards according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the EU render compliance of the existing fleet financially unsustainable and, hence, guarantee a steady flow of clients for recycling in the future decades. Around 70% of all end-of-life ships globally and more than 90% of the EU fleet are recycled on the beaches of five countries: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China and Turkey.

The lion’s share goes to the first three. Ship recycling is a source of valuable recyclable materials, mainly scrap metals used for steelmaking.

The Greek paradox

Greece does not have ship recycling yards, whilst its entire coastal fleet (short sea shipping fleet) and a considerable portion of its oceangoing fleet is obsolete awaiting for recycling.

Siksan Ship Recycling at the Turkish coast, just opposite Lesvos

Turkey, on the other hand, although not a member state of the EU, has eight recycling yards on the European list of approved recycling yards and many more of lower standards, which are not on this list.

Source: European Commission

Ship recycling yards of countries with high environmental conscience, a plethora of environmental NGOs and higher salaries than in Greece, are on the EU list of approved ship recycling yards: e.g., France, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Finland.

EU Regulation 1257/2013 provides for upgraded environmental requirements and conditions of work safety in the recycling yards on its list, rendering ship recycling a green activity.

However, Greece has never submitted an application to be included on the list.

Greece, with an archipelago of 3,000 islands, the world leadership of its commercial fleet, the longest coastline in Europe and its strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean does not have any ship recycling yards.

Greek-owned ships are sent for recycling and repairs to Turkey, offering it an annual bonanza and securing employment to the Turkish labor force.

The Oge Ship Recycling Corporate in Turkey

Anna Bredima writes about the potential of building a network of scrapping and shipbuilding yards in Greece, the benefits in cost saving and job creation, the contribution in the circular and blue economy such a network would offer.

She also highlights the fact in the history of Greece there have been times when verticalization contributed to national victories.

From the “wooden wall” of Themistocles in the naval battle of Salamis (480 BC) to the local tarsanas yards of the islands of Hydra, Spetses and Psara in 1821, the shipbuilding industry became a decisive factor for national victories.

The tarsanas, or carnagio, were small shipyards offering building, repairs and mooring during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Today, 200 years after 1821, this example could be followed once more.

You can read the full article in the March/April 2021 issue of Greek Business File, available here.

*Dr. Anna Bredima, Senior Policy Advisor on European Affairs, Cyprus Union of Shipowners