A new method of dismantling ships, utilising the same waterjet technology currently used by bomb disposal experts, is expected to enter the ship recycling space in the coming months.
One of the difficulties with the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EUSRR) is that recycling yards are limited to a restricted list of EU and Turkish ship breakers. This causes issues with capacity and cost of recycling at EU facilities. Robotic dismantling of ships might mean that ships can be more efficiently and recycled in the EU under the EUSRR.
Fitting into the Hong Kong Convention
Coming into force on 26 June 2025, the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (the Hong Kong Convention), is intended to ensure, amongst other things, the operation of ship recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner. This includes reducing the levels of contaminants, such as heavy metals, washed into water sources and moving away from fossil fuel-powered methods on dismantling.
By these metrics, a robotic waterjet system which is low carbon and environmentally safe might offer a viable solution where ship recycling is required to be done in the EU.
There has been much discussion as to whether the long-awaited entry into force of Hong Kong Convention will make very much difference, on a practical level, to ship recycling and how ship owners have to approach it. But it is a welcome development and the general movement of the industry continues to be towards more sustainable ship recycling.
Although the industry still has a long way to go, steps such as these taken by regulators, ship recyclers, innovators and others in the shipping industry help to move shipping closer to reaching 2050 sustainability objectives.