Recycling and waste

UK Ship Recycling Strategy

The UK Ship Recycling Strategy has been developed as result of four key developments:

  • the import of four decommissioned US naval ships in 2003 and the recommendations resulting from the Ballard and Environment Agency Reviews
  • recommendations resulting from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry and subsequent report on ‘Dismantling Defunct Ships in the UK’ published in November 2004 (the EFRA report)
  • the response to the EFRA Committee report in January 2005, in which Government committed to the development of a UK Ship Recycling Strategy
  • concern over the lack of a global regulatory framework to ensure end-of-life vessels are recycled in accordance with acceptable environmental, health and safety standards

The primary objectives of the Strategy were developed by consensus within the UK Government and are identified as follows:

1. To develop a strategic approach to the recycling of UK flagged vessels that is consistent with the UK's national and international sustainable development commitments. The Strategy establishes domestic policy for the recycling of UK Government-owned vessels, sets out relevant waste controls and recommendations for owners and operators of UK-flagged vessels and informs the UK position for international negotiations on ship recycling.

Government wishes to provide a positive example to the international shipping community, especially owners and operators of UK-flagged vessels, by ensuring its vessels are recycled in accordance with acceptable environmental, health and safety standards, particularly in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management (ESM).

The Government continues to work at an international level through the forums of the Basel Convention, the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization to progress towards globally agreed and enforceable standards in ship recycling.

2. To support, through the provision of guidance, the development of UK capacity for recycling of end-of-life vessels in an environmentally sound manner.

Shipowners and ship recyclers need clear, practical guidance on the regulatory regimes pertaining to ship recycling in the UK. Improved understanding of the relevant regimes and assistance available to stakeholders involved in the recycling process will improve transparency of the options available to those wishing to recycle end-of-life vessels in the UK.

The drivers and constraints affecting the establishment of ship recycling capacity in the UK are many and varied. It is not within the remit of this Strategy to make recommendations on commercial decisions concerning the establishment of domestic ship recycling facilities. Potential sources of assistance, including funding, available at the EU, national, regional and local level are detailed in the guidance ‘An Overview of the Ship Recycling Process in the UK’ which has been issued as part of the Strategy consultation and those entities wishing to recycle ships in the UK are encouraged to make reference to this.

The terms of reference for the Strategy were agreed in November 2004.

The Strategy package was published on 27 February 2007 and consists of the following documents:

For further information, please contact

Import of US Ships

Discussion of the issues related to the dismantling of end-of-life vessels was brought to the fore by the import of four decommissioned US naval vessels in 2003. The US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) signed a contract with Able UK in July 2003 for the recycling of 13 redundant naval vessels from the US National Defence Reserve Fleet. In November 2003, four of the vessels arrived at the Able UK facility. It transpired that not all the necessary permissions for their dismantling at Able's Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre (TERRC) were in place.

Ballard and Environment Agency reviews

As a result of the import of the US naval ships, the Environment Agency and Defra (by way of the Ballard Review) conducted separate reviews to identify the lessons learned. The reviews and their recommendations can be viewed via the links below.

Ballard review
Environment Agency review
EFRA report on 'Dismantling Defunct Ships in the UK'

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee published a report on 'Dismantling Defunct Ships in the UK' which was published in November 2004. The report investigates current international practices in ship dismantling, the applicable international regulations and guidelines governing the industry and establishes the core principles of responsible recycling of ships. It also reviews action taken at the UK level to improve standards in ship dismantling and welcomes the UK Government's decision to publish a UK ship recycling strategy.

The EFRA report and the Government's response are available via the links below

Page last modified: 22 May 2007
Page published: 5 February 2003

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs