People, Environment

Ship Recycling Banned in Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea

Ship Recycling Banned in Persian Gulf, Caspian SeaShip Recycling Banned in Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea

An official at the Department of Environment says ship breaking is banned in the waters of Persian Gulf in the south and Caspian Sea in the north.

Also called ship recycling and ship demolition, ship breaking is the breaking up of ships for either a source of parts, which can be sold for re-use, or for the extraction of raw materials, chiefly scrap.

“The business of ship recycling is highly lucrative, but it’s equally polluting. Only six countries out of the 185 countries with coasts have embarked upon the challenge, and that is due to the various environmental risks the activity poses,” said Parvin Farshchi, deputy head of the Marine Environment Division at the DOE, Mehr News Agency reported.

Due to its severe environmental impact, ship breaking is tightly regulated in the developed world, which is why the bulk of the process is done in the developing world where stringent regulations are hardly enforced.

Ship breaking has become an issue of global environmental and health concern in recent years. Oceangoing vessels are not meant to be taken apart. They are designed to withstand extreme forces in some of the planet’s most difficult and unfriendly environments, and they are often constructed with toxic materials, such as asbestos and lead

Many shipbreaking yards operate under lax or no environmental laws, enabling large quantities of highly toxic materials to escape into the general environment and causing serious health problems among shipbreakers, the local population, and wildlife.

Additionally, 70% of ships are simply run ashore in developing countries for disassembly, where (particularly in older vessels) asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals pose serious risk to the workers as well as the environment. Burns from explosions and fire; suffocation; mutilation from falling metal; cancer and disease from toxins are regular occurrences in the industry. Removing the metal for scrap can potentially cost more than the value of the metal itself.

  DOE Opposition Since 1987

“We are against ship recycling and don’t intend to become a shipbreaking yard for the neighboring Arab countries,” Farshchi said.  

There are currently 170 sunken ships in Arvand River and hundreds more in the Persian Gulf.

“The case was first taken up in 1987 when the DOE opposed the idea,” said Shahram Fadakar, director of Beaches and Coastal Wetlands Office at the DOE.

Taking stock of the pressing need for scrap and high demand for steel and dilapidation of the marine fleet, Fadakar said a workgroup has been formed to study the feasibility of breaking ships in the far reaches of the Oman Sea, in the southern parts of Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

“[Shipbreaking] will only be done at the far ends of Oman Sea for Iranian ships under special conditions,” he said without elaboration.

While 70 to 80% of all global ship breaking activities occur in Asia, Fadakar said instances of demolition, if any, in the country had taken place illegally.