Plans to build the EU’s first recycling facility for large ships are underway at the Port of Frederikshavn in Denmark.

The problem

Around 1,250 large seagoing ships are decommissioned every year. Currently, 95 per cent of these are ‘beached’, often in Southeast Asia, where unsafe working conditions and improper handling of hazardous materials can harm workers and the environment.

In 2013, the EU Ship Recycling Regulation was introduced to mitigate the negative effects of scrapping EU-flagged vessels. This regulation is in line with the European Commission’s focus on transitioning to a circular economy, in which the maximum value is extracted from all raw materials, products and waste.

The solution

An EIT Climate-KIC Pathfinder project is now underway to examine the feasibility of a large-ship recycling facility at the Port of Frederikshavn in Denmark.

Total Recycle Decommissioning (TRD) examines commercial incentives to maximise the ratio of recycled materials from ships at the proposed new facility. Konstantina Kaisheva is project consultant at NTU, the Danish firm leading the project. “Currently, decommission sites mainly focus on steel, so we thought it would be beneficial to look at non-ferrous metals and hazardous chemicals,” she says. “We want to establish a cluster of companies that focus on all materials, and so introduce a circular economy mindset into this facility.”

TRD has examined which metals are viable to recycle. “We learned there is definite commercial viability for non-ferrous metals, especially copper, nickel and lead,” says Kaisheva. “One large roll-on/roll-off passenger ship provides around 100-300 metric tonnes of non-ferrous metals, which can easily be recycled with these companies’ expertise.”

Furthermore, fully documenting the recycling process will create data to feedback to ship designers, ensuring the next generation of ships is as recyclable as possible.

The impact

At this stage it is difficult to quantify the potential reduction in greenhouse gas the scheme could realise; that would depend on the tonnage of ships that the facility recycles each year. But any reduction in vessels decommissioned on beaches in Bangladesh or Pakistan will have an immediate and beneficial environmental impact. Long-term, the project could provide a valuable blueprint and lessons for other ship recycling facilities in Europe and beyond.

EIT Climate-KIC’s role

EIT Climate-KIC’s Nordic team helped NTU prepare its application to become a Pathfinder project, and assisted with brainstorming sessions to help shape the concept.

Bringing the Total Recycle Decommissioning concept to EIT Climate-KIC felt like a natural fit for NTU, says Kaisheva.

“We felt they had the expertise to back up this kind of project because they are focused on environmentally friendly solutions and innovations,” she explains. “It’s very exciting to have a partner like Climate-KIC – they have been heavily involved from the beginning.”

Two other EIT Climate-KIC partners, Technical University of Denmark and Aarhus University, has been brought on board to help ensure the business model remains technologically and environmentally sound. “We want to continue dialogue with companies and hopefully with ship owners as well,” says Kaisheva.