Ship Disposal

When ships become obsolete after their effective life and are no longer considered useful, they are disposed of in accordance with guidelines set by global environmental organisations such as the Basel Convention. Ship Disposal involves a number of challenging issues, especially things related to the environmental and safety issues. There are various environmentally friendly methods and options available for a ship disposal. Green Ship Recycling or Ship Breaking is considered as the best option for disposing of a retiring vessel in a safe and environmentally friendly way. Other useful methods of ship disposal are hulking, deep water sinking to convert it into an artificial reef, using it as floating dry-dock storage, or donating it to a responsible organisation.

Ship Graveyard

Ship Breaking and Recycling

Ship breaking is regarded as the most environmentally friendly way to dispose an obsolete vessel.  Environmental bodies such as the Basel Convention suggests the method of “Green Ship Recycling” for a ship disposal. It requires the proper cleaning of the ship to free it from the toxic wastes such as Asbestos, Mercury and Lead that can seriously harm the surrounding environment and the people involved in dismantling it. Green Ship Recycling has many benefits over other methods of ship disposal:

  • It encourages for the proper cleaning of the ship from hazardous waste that can be harmful to workers and the marine life.
  • Reusing usable parts of ship in the building of new ships.
  • Using scraps as raw materials in related industries such as iron and steel industries.

Ship breaking facilities are available in many third world countries such as Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan and Turkey, as they offer cost effective ship disposal services.

Ship breaking in Bangladesh


Hulking has been a traditional method for the ship disposal for hundreds of years. Under this method, all the machinery and equipment is removed from the ship and converted it into a hulk for further uses such as a museum, office, hotel or a conference center.

Passenger ship Arca Fiumana now used as a restaurant and bar

Artificial Reefing

Artificial reefing is perhaps the least expensive option available for a ship disposal. The method involves the proper cleaning of ships and then sinking them at a predetermined  location to create an artificial reef. Then the reef can be used by a tourist or a diving site, which makes it a profitable option.

Artificial reef Vandenberg

Floating and Dry-dock Storage

Storage on water for a longer period can be a very costly affair for a retiring ship. It can lead to rusting and corrosion of ships after few years. Floating and dry-dock storage method is a cost effective way to dispose of a marine vessel.

Floating storage

Sink Exercise (SINKEX by the Navy)

It is one of the least favorable methods of ship disposal. It involves cleaning the toxic waste and then sinking the ship during a target practice by the naval forces.

There are many examples where shipping companies have been involved in disposing a ship in illegal ways to avoid the high cost involved in dismantling it in legal ways. The disposal of Clemenceau of France, SS Norway of Norway and SS Oceanic of the United States are some of the examples where environmental safety rules were found to be ignored by the concerned parties.

Decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Oriskany sinks in the Gulf of Mexico