The Myth: Ships are broken down by hands in recycling yards in South Asian Countries and workers had to lift steel pieces with bare hands.
Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC) Compliant Ship Recycling Yards are equipped with cranes of different capacities ranging from Safe Working Load (SWL) of 200T to 12T. Cranes are used for distinct purposes.
In the ship recycling facilities, ships are cut in three different zones. The primary cutting zone is the vessel itself. A large slice of the vessel's hull is marked and cut as per the approved ship-specific Ship Recycling Plan (SRP). While marking and cutting the slice, factors like ship stability and SWL of the handling crane are considered. These heavy blocks are lifted by the heavy-duty crane (SWL 200 T) from the vessel and transferred to the secondary cutting zone without any contact with the intertidal zone. In the secondary cutting zone, the larger slice is cut down into smaller slices. The cutting is done in such a way that larger plates are extracted for useful applications. While doing this, the slices need to be cut in smaller sections and often aligned to get the right access for the cutting torch. Medium capacity cranes (SWL 35 T) are used for handling smaller slices in the secondary cutting zone. The same crane is used to transfer lighter sections to the tertiary zones, where stiffeners and brackets are cut into smaller parts.
The Cranes with SWL 12 to 18T are used to load the extracted steel plates into the truck used for transportation. These steel plates are transported to steel rolling mills to make steel bars which are used in the construction industry, and scrap steel is sent to electric arc furnaces.
In Indian recycling yards, only lighter pieces (lesser than 2 Kg) of scrap steel are hand lifted by the workers only for segregation purposes. They are provided with adequate PPE. Recycling facilities based in Bangladesh use cranes with magnetic grabs to handle the steel plates and scrap pieces.
The workers involved in gas cutting wear adequate PPE, including hard hats, overalls, safety shoes, gloves, masks, and gas-cutting glasses. A qualified safety officer supervises the complete process.
The cranes are inspected and load tested every six months to ensure the cranes' good health by the competent authorities.
It is incredible to see the progress made by the recycling facilities in India. In the entire process of removing slices from the vessel's hull until loading on the trucks, the heavy steel pieces or plates are never handled manually with bare hands in HKC compliant yards.