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Exxon to Recycle 1986 Tanker on U.S. Soil

Exxon Mobil and subsidiary SeaRiver Maritime have sold their 1986 tanker the S/R Wilmington for recycling, in a move that watchdog organization Basel Action Network said should serve as an example to other companies.

The ship will be dismantled in the U.S. by a skilled workforce, using advanced technologies to manage the vessel’s hazardous waste stream, BAN says. It contrasts this with the practices of many Exxon competitors.

BAN says about 90 percent of retired vessels are sent to the shipbreaking beaches of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There, the organization says, children form nearly a quarter of the workforce, making under $1 per day, and little is done to protect workers’ health or that of environmentally sensitive tidal flats.

But BAN says the advanced technologies used by U.S. facilities ensure that wastes including PCBs, asbestos, lead, and mercury are properly managed, These facilities recycle about 91 percent of each vessel, including steel, aluminum, and copper, returning these materials to the marketplace, the organization says.

The NGO Platform, of which BAN is a part, is seeking an “Off the Beach Commitment” from all companies that use shipping, urging them to ensure that obsolete vessels don’t find their way to South Asian beaches.

Under U.S. 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.

With steel prices in the $300 a ton range and  scrap rebounding after its significant downturn, ship recycling is booming, American Recycler reported last December. ESCO Marine of Brownsville, Texas appears to be the largest ship recycling company in the U.S. At ESCO, about 400 workers dismantle up to seven ships at a time.

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