With steel prices in the $300 a ton range and scrap rebounding after its significant downturn, ship recycling is booming these days, American Recycler reports. This isn’t just ship breaking. Ship recycling recovers large quantities of ferrous and nonferrous metals and also salvages engines, generators and other parts.
Approximately 90 percent of world ship dismantling takes place in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan where untrained workers have a disregard for hazardous materials such as asbestos, PCBs and lead paint.
But under US law, regulated by United States Maritime Administration (MARAD), an agency of the US Department of Transportation, and the EPA, registered US vessels containing hazardous contaminants cannot be exported for dismantling.
ESCO Marine of Brownsville Texas appears to be the largest ship recycling company in the US, AR reports. Approximately 400 workers dismantle up to 7 ships at a time. All workers undergo safety training and safety officers are present everyday in the yard and on vessels to enforce safety and work rules. Facility water is specially filtered to remove contaminants, which are then properly disposed.
“Most ships we do are 7,000 to 14,000 tons, but we’ve handled vessels up to 18,000 tons We’re now bidding on the Saratoga, a Forrestal Class aircraft carrier launched in 1955 which is 59,000 tons,” Richard Jaross, CEO of ESCO Marine told AR. “We do 8,000 to 9,000 tons of ship scrap per month, so if an average ship weighs 8,000 tons we are doing about 1 ship every month.”
ESCO also sends work crews around the country to perform environmental remediation on ships scheduled for sinking as artificial reefs. But, according to the article, the ecological implications of using manufactured materials to create artificial reefs are not clear. Still, in 2000, New York City Transit sold over 1,200 obsolete subway cars that were sunk in the Atlantic and in 2007 it sold 1,600 more for reefing.