The former “Karl” refrigerated ship dismantled by the Navaleo company in Brest, May 06, 2022 (AFP / FRED TANNEAU)
Since the dismantling of TK Bremen, a Maltese freighter in 2011, the recycling of old ships continues to develop in the port of Brest, in the west of France. This is where two former cargo ships, the Karl and the Antigone Z, will be deconstructed, before the Russian tanker Varzuga.
Equipped with facilities classified for environmental protection, the Brest shipyard is the only one on the Atlantic coast that is allowed to dismantle ships of high tonnage.
Covering an area of 15,000 m2, it has been on the European List of Approved Ship Recycling Facilities since 2016, which lists thirty in the European Union and twelve more in Great Britain, Turkey and the United States. .
And this is a benefit for the port of this city in the far west of France, since in 2019, European regulations impose the dismantling of ships flying the European flag in a shipyard approved by the European Union .
In the port of Brest, at the 5th quay east, the activity continues. A large red gripper mounted on top of a long articulated shovel tirelessly picks up scrap metal, cuts it and then tears it. Within days, only a pile of debris from two old 600-ton refrigerated ships remained.
Before that, they were cleaned of their liquids, hydrocarbons, oils and dangerous gases, then the asbestos was removed. Shims, glass wool and wood and metal sheets are also removed.
The scrap, collected in the form of refit using magnetic shovels, then goes to European and French foundries, especially ArcelorMittal in Dunkirk (port in northern France).
The sector was born in Brest with the deconstruction of the TK Bremen that ran aground on a Morbihan beach in 2011. “Since then, it has been growing”, assured AFP Olivier Lebosquain, director of the Navaleo site of the Les Recycleurs bretons group which employs about 40 people.
In 2020 and 2021, he mainly deconstructed the last three diesel submarines of the French Navy. After Karl and Antigone Z, it will dismantle the Russian icebreaker tanker Varzuga, 165 meters long and 6,600 tons. It is the largest merchant ship ever deconstructed in France.
“We have just deconstructed two boats and we have a loading plan that is still important”, welcomed Pierre Rolland, president of Navaleo. The project plans to create 10 to 15 jobs per year for the next few years.
In 2021, the company exported about 30,000 tons of steel from Brest from operations to dismantle military ships or “suction cups”, these boats in poor condition abandoned by the port of unscrupulous ship owners.
-“look down” states-
Ships dismantled by the Navaleo company in Brest, May 6, 2022 (AFP / FRED TANNEAU)
“We can imagine that these boats will go to Asia especially, so we are happy that the ship breaking sector in Brest is developing”, pointed out Mr. Lebosquain.
Some Member States of the European Union, however, avoided the regulations in 2019 by changing the flag of their end-of-life ships to destroy them in shipyards that offer attractive prices, to the detriment of those social, health and environmental regulation.
During the first quarter of 2022, 129 cargo ships were deconstructed worldwide, says the latest bulletin “Shipbreaking” from the environmental association “Robin des Bois”. Only four are in shipyards approved by the European Union.
“Some ships have left or left for Bangladesh, India, Pakistan or Turkey”, mostly in coastal areas, the association told AFP.
Of these 129 ships, 43 changed their flag to adopt States such as Saint-Kitts-and-Nevis, Comoros or Palau to escape European regulations, regrets “Robin des Bois”.
Navaleo, however, claims to be increasingly approached by French and European ship owners who do not want or no longer want to “delag” their boats.
“These ship owners are always asking us questions and we have ongoing projects that we hope to finish in 2023 and 2024,” enthused Pierre Rolland.