Concept automates ship recycling in an ecological and circular process

Ships are lifted onto a transfer system which slices them then breaks down the slides (CMT)

Posted on September 16, 2022 at 4:27 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Disposing of retired vessels in an environmentally friendly and safe manner remains one of the greatest challenges for the maritime industry. Despite government initiatives and watchdog groups, shipbreaking remains a dirty, labor-intensive operation with a poor overall safety record according to groups such as the NGO Shipbreaking.

A Dutch start-up reports that it has designed a new, fully automated process that quickly extracts steel from ships, creating a circular economy that is also environmentally friendly. Circular Maritime Technologies International (CMT) states that with the support of partners such as Aseco Europe, Damen Shipyards, Enviu, Fluor, Grimbergen Industrial Systems, Huisman Equipment, Jansen Recycling Group, KCI, Sea2Cradle, Sojitz Corporation and Stork, it will soon launch its proof-of-concept prototype in the Netherlands. CMT plans to establish shipyards with international partners and attract shipowners by matching the price paid by South Asian competitors.

Nearly 150 merchant ships were sold to demolishers in the second quarter of 2022, reports the NGO Shipbreaking. The majority of ships go to the Far East, with India, Pakistan and Bangladesh being among the largest operators of demolition operations. Turkish shipyards are among the few to be EU certified.

CMT claims that there have been no major developments in the past 50 years in the shipbreaking industry. Despite EU requirements, the majority of ships are demolished using flares and human labor. A major concession that has been won is the elimination of certain materials suitable for recycling and the use of concrete slabs in certain places so that the waste does not enter the ground. However, in many places, such as Asia, ships are simply driven ashore and dismantled.

“CMT will revolutionize ship recycling by delivering clean steel through an automated, low-carbon, contained and circular process that does no harm to humans or the environment,” the company reports.

In a diagram of the operation, they show that after preparation, a ship would be lifted out of the water and placed on a transfer system where automated cutting begins with hydraulic cutters. The vessel would initially be cut into 300 MT slices, with one slice taking approximately two hours and each piece being placed on a frame. The slice would be cut into six pieces in about two more hours, then with cutting pliers taken into 10 blocks in another two hours. The blocks are then moved to a stripping operation which separates items such as pipes and cables before the block is hydroblasted. Then laser cutting reduces the remaining parts to steel plates.

According to the company, the yard runs on its own power and produces clean steel, which is strongly linked to the production of green steel. In addition to steel, each ship would be separated into regular scrap, clean assorted non-ferrous materials, clean assorted inert materials, and liquid and solid waste and processed at the CMT yard and converted to base gas to generate electricity , LNG and or H2.

The process will be fully circular and they believe it can be scaled up to become cost competitive with scrappers in Southeast Asia.