Ships ought to be designed with dismantling in mind

Panagiotis Galanis, aged 14, is a grade nine student at the Hellenic-American Educational Foundation. He writes exclusively for Splash on what he took away from a recent visit to a ship recycling facility in Turkey.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development. Each year, Earth Day—April 22 —marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. Reading about this global network and event that currently is celebrated by 1bn people across 192 countries, I believe that it is time to move forward and consider the Earth Life, not just a single day. In my opinion, environmental conservation and protection, climate activism and advocacy, and advancing the green economy should not be just only an event but be a part of our daily life, our Earth’s Life.

During a visit to Turkey last month, I had the chance to visit two ship recycling facilities that are considered to be leaders within their sector. LEYAL Ship Recycling Group is the leading ship recycling facility in Turkey and the first non-European ship recycling facility to be approved by the European Commission. It has joined the EU list of approved facilities under the new European Ship Recycling Regulation. It is impressive to walk into such a complex and high risk industrial area where a number of famous ships have been recycled and are now turned into bridges, railways, construction material, etc. I felt very strange when I heard that four aircraft carriers, namely HMS Ark Royal, HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious and Principe de Asturias, together with over a thousand ships have been recycled at LEYAL, and their material is now used for other applications.

Is it really important to know about materials? Can the negative impact of industrial development be controlled? While the management was guiding me around the facilities, with me dressed in personal protective equipment that are usually made for 18+ years old people, I began to think hard about the real impact of the full life cycles of ships. I realised that as important it is to do in-depth research, develop and build a ship, also of greater significance and challenge is the reverse engineering, especially for constructions that were not initially designed based on how they will be dismantled. One of the biggest goals of the future industrial applications, and especially for the shipbuilding industry due to the size of the ships, should be a robust design that will contain detailed information about how to improve environmental aspects that will lead to the maximum recyclability of the ships, and at the same time, improve safety of workers at the recycling yards, as well as safety of the environment.

My two-day visit taught me that in order to be a qualified member for protecting our environment, I need to work through a combination of education, public policy, consumer campaigns, co-operation with the community and finding solutions to engineering problems. Every experience is helpful as long as we strengthen our ability to make one step forward and become active members of our community. Making mistakes is not always the problem. Reflecting on them, and then rectifying them will allow our Earth to become sustainable for all the generations to follow. I’m looking forward to the next visit, hoping that the recyclability of the facility will increase even higher. One experience, several lessons learned.

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