Responsible ship recycling in Alang is possible

More than one year after the arrival of two Maersk vessels to Alang, the recycling of Maersk Wyoming and Maersk Georgia was completed with success in 2017. A twisted ankle and a minor gas leak were the most severe health, safety and environmental issues.

Eyebrows were raised on 16 May 2016 when Maersk Wyoming arrived at the Shree Ram Group’s plot no. 78 in Alang, India for dismantling and recycling. Shortly after, it was followed by Maersk Georgia. These were the first vessels that Maersk sold to a ship recycler in the northwest corner of India, known for poor working and environmental conditions. Maersk’s decision to sell ships to these yards was criticised.

Maersk, however, was determined to show that change for the better was possible by incentivising the ship recyclers to comply with a higher standard (the A.P. Moller - Maersk Responsible Ship Recycling Standard, based on a strict interpretation of the Hong Kong Convention) and by having an onsite team to ensure implementation of the standard. During the summer of 2017, the dismantling of both Maersk Georgia and Maersk Wyoming was completed, proving the case.

“The completion report for Maersk Georgia and Maersk Wyoming shows that commercially viable and responsible ship recycling in Alang is possible,” says John Kornerup Bang, Head of Sustainability Strategy & Shared Value at A.P. Moller - Maersk.

Audits show that all the yards Maersk works with are operating in full compliance with its standard.  The yards managed to fully eliminate contact with the intertidal zone during primary cutting, and Maersk has now made this a mandatory requirement in its standard. This means that they are operating to at least the same level as when Maersk recycles vessels in China and Turkey.

Investing in change

Maersk engaged with the yard before the ships arrived to Alang and throughout the recycling. This way, the company ensured that the yard not only agreed with and upgraded to comply with its standard but that the recycling of the vessels was carried out accordingly.

"All past experience of changing any industry points to the fact that real engagement on the ground leads to effective change.

John Kornerup Bang,
Head of Sustainability
Strategy & Shared Value
at A.P. Moller - Maersk

Under business-as-usual conditions, it takes much less than a year to recycle a vessel in Alang, but implementing new standards, infrastructure as well as a safety mindset at the shipyard saw the recycling of the first vessels exceed a full year.

“We were paid less than the actual value of the two vessels. In return, Shree Ram invested in upgrading its health, safety and environmental performance,” explains John Kornerup Bang.

One indication of a more cautious approach to dismantling the vessels in a safe and environmentally sounds manner as well as an improved safety culture is the increase of reported near-misses. These rose to 120 in 2017 against a target of 40. Also, unsafe acts led to 72 stop-work instructions issued by Maersk’s onsite team, and the number of training sessions and drills conducted increased by 30%.

“These numbers point to an important cultural change at the shipyard: workers proactively report safety hazards and near misses. This enabled us to insert risk mitigation measures in a timely manner before things went wrong. It takes time to stop work, explain what, why and how certain procedures must be changed and ensure that everybody understands our standard,” says Capt. Prashant Widge, Head of Responsible Ship Recycling at Maersk.

Nevertheless, the recycling of the two vessels did reveal two shortcomings on the 22 health, safety and environmental KPIs that were monitored: one lost-time injury as a safety officer fell from a one-meter ladder twisting his ankle, and one minor gas leakage in the intertidal zone.

“Two incidences are two too many and they only go to show the importance of having an onsite supervision team that can take action and continuously promote the safety culture. All past experience of changing any industry points to the fact that real engagement on the ground leads to effective change,” says John Kornerup Bang.

Working with yards in Alang

The shipyard underwent a massive change while recycling the two vessels, not just culturally and in terms of working conditions but also as far as infrastructure goes. Dormitories for workers were built, heavy-duty cranes brought in to make sure that steel blocks can be removed from the vessels without touching the ground, the impermeable floor was extended to reduce the intertidal zone and much more.

“Altogether, this was a massive upgrade and improvement of the shipyard to the benefit of the workers and the environment, and the yard’s performance improved significantly,” says John Kornerup Bang, adding:

“We are seeing increased investments in upgrades in many other yards, and when we sold our second batch of vessels, we saw yards competing on higher standards and not just on price. We believe these results indicate that with this approach, all the ship recycling operations in the entire Alang area could become responsible.”

Maersk continues to sell retired vessels to shipyards in Alang at prices below the market rate, but over time expect the delta to come down as responsible ship recycling becomes the norm in Alang.


What has been achieved in Alang

Maersk delivered the first two vessels, Maersk Wyoming and Maersk Georgia, to Shree Ram Yard (plot 78) in spring 2016, and the dismantling was completed in late summer 2017. During this period, the yard’s performance has improved significantly.

  • The number of findings in external audits fell from 66 in February 2016 to just one in May 2017. The remaining finding is related to excessive monthly overtime, which is an issue Maersk faces in all places with migrant workers, including China, and which we continue to address.
  • The interface between the ship’s parts and the intertidal zone has been close to eliminated (clean blocks from bow and stern still fell into the intertidal zone using the gravity method for the first two vessels recycled).
  • Impermeable floors have been extended and all cutting takes place only on these surfaces. All workers received relevant safety training and were provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment and required to use it. They are also paid the minimum wage plus 200% overtime payment and have a contract.
  • ILO-compliant housing facilities with access to potable drinking water has been provided to all workers at no additional cost.

At year-end 2017, Maersk has other vessels being recycled at Shree Ram (plot V7) and YS (plot 59). As a result of the momentum created, all issues found were resolved before the vessels arrived at the yards.

Prior to signing contracts, the yards invested in heavy-duty cranes to lift steel blocks directly from the vessels onto an impermeable surface, also from the bow and stern. Therefore, steel blocks are no longer coming into contact with the intertidal zone, and nor is tidal water entering hull of the vessel. These are two impacts of the beaching method which are most often criticised.

Based on these results, Maersk feels confident in stating that its activities in Alang are expanding the range of options available for the responsible recycling of ships.

 

Health, safety and environmental issues 

Using 10 indicators for health, safety and environmental performance, Maersk registered one lost-time injury and one minor gas leakage in the intertidal zone during the recycling of Maersk Wyoming and Maersk Georgia.

  1. Fatalities
  2. Loss time injury*
  3. Lost time injury Frequency Rate
  4. Restricted work case
  5. Medical Treatment case
  6. First aid case
  7. Property Damage (Cranes and winches)
  8. Unintended Gas release/leakage**
  9. Minor Spillage
  10. Major Spillage

*) Loss time injury: A safety officer slipped and fell one meter from a vertical ladder while carrying out normal safety rounds on Maersk Georgia. The officer twisted an ankle, seeing the incident lead to a loss time injury, returning to work after a day of rest.

**) Gas Leakage in Intertidal Zone: A minor gas leak from cutting hose in the intertidal zone was observed by a safety officer. Work was stopped and the hose replaced.  A long-term corrective action related to testing all hoses, prior to commencement of cutting operations every morning and after breaks, was effectuated.

The environmental impact

To assess the environmental impacts of A.P. Moller – Maersk’s recycling practices, an independent research company has examined levels of polluting substances in the seawater on industrial beaches in Alang. Explore the results.

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