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Ship recycling is ‘most misunderstood’ industry

Nighty-eight per cent of a ship can be recycled.

Nighty-eight per cent of a ship can be recycled.

Ship recycling is one of the most misunderstood industries in the world, according to the CEO of GMS, one of the world’s largest ship traders, Anil Sharma.

“The industry is seen in a very negative light but it is actually a very green one. It is responsible recycling,” he said, noting that 98 per cent of a ship was recycled.

Around 95 per cent of ship recycling is done in Asia, mostly because this is where the greatest demand for the scrap metal is. The concentration of facilities has created an entire infrastructure for recycling, with teams descending on the vessels to buy everything from the metal to the copper cables, and from bedding to cleaning supplies.

He acknowledged that there were bad yards, with the practice of scrap­ping ships on beaches frown­ed upon by serious operators.

Ship recycling, a $3 billion industry, grown in recent years, with 666 ships scrapped – 34 million DWT – compared with just 133 new builds.

There are some yards in Europe that recycle ships, mainly in Turkey, Dr Sharma said, and although shipyards could easily convert from building to scrapping, the industry could not work in isolation.

“There is considerable demand for scrap metal in Turkey but Malta would find it hard to compete with yards there as the labour costs here would be higher, and you would also need to ship the scrap,” he said.

Dr Sharma was one of the high-profile speakers at the first Mare Forum held at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, Floriana, last week, that attracted an international gathering of representatives from shipping, commodities and oil and gas, as well as marine/maritime issues.

Transport Minister Joe Mizzi said the government supported such initiatives as Malta had the natural potential to become a leading mari­time centre in the Mediterranean.

“I will not make apologies for being ambitious. I want Malta to be recognised as one of the most important maritime centres in the world and spread the word that we’re not just open for maritime business but that we will scout relentlessly for new business around the globe,” he said.

“My first frustration is simply that we do not shout about our maritime industry enough. Considering its influence and importance, it has an unaccountably low public profile. When was the last time you read a story about our maritime industry on the front page of your paper?

“If one asks me where we can find the future of a flourishing Mediterranean maritime industry, my answer is clear – in our schools and universities. One of the best ways we can secure the future is to invest in skills and training. As a former seafarer, one can expect that this subject is very close to my heart. A successful and sustainable industry needs the right people, with the right skills and rewarding careers paths to attract new entrants.

“We can all be stronger through opportunities grasped by those whose competencies reinforce our competitiveness. Skills are clearly integral to the maritime sector’s future but the sector also needs a stable business and fiscal environment if it wants to grow.”

The event was organised by Mare Forum in conjunction with GM International Services, whose chairman John Gauci-Maistre also referred to the efforts of states like Malta and Italy and private entities, which have put aside commercial interests, at a great cost, to carry out migrant rescue operations.

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