A testament to international trade and technical innovation, the world’s commercial shipping fleet has never been larger. An impressive variety of ships operates with greater efficiency — and safety — bringing people and ideas of every country together. But ships are hardly permanent. They must eventually come to an end, given the harshness of the marine environment, the demands made of them, and changing standards for design and construction. The 70,000 commercial ships now in worldwide trade also face the additional pressures of historic low rates for their charter hire (the result of oversupply) and an excess of shipbuilding capacity. (The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reminds us that 2011 was the “peak year of the historically largest shipbuilding cycle.” See UNCTAD’s Review of Marine Transport 2015.) Ships of all types — tankers, bulk carriers, and container ships most prominently — will be retired sooner.
Photo above: Tonnage reported sold for demolition, major vessel types and countries where demolished (Source: UNCTAD Review of Marine Transportation 2015)
The global shipbreaking industry is undergoing significant changes that promise to make the “recycling” of ships less environmentally damaging, safer for the workers involved, and more cost-effective. The changes have important implications for industry in Canada. And they point to how ships are increasingly commonly regulated through all stages of their life cycle under the aegis of the International Maritime Organization.
Think local, act global
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