Port of Brownsville to recycle EU ships

Brownsville, Texas, is now the only American port where European-flagged ships can be dismantled and recycled.

International Shipbreaking has earned the only U.S.-based European Union Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) accreditation. The regulations set standards for environmental and health and safety compliance which go above and beyond stringent U.S. regulatory requirements. The International Shipbreaking facility meets EU requirements that ships are completely recycled on hard surfaces to avoid pollutants such as chemicals from paints contaminating the soil and water.

Interested in shipbreaking? Read our feature “Facing headwinds” about the scope and dangers of international ship recycling efforts.

International Shipbreaking Ltd. LLC is a tenant at the Port of Brownsville and part of EMR Metal Recycling. It invested $30 million in infrastructure so it could gain the European Union Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) accreditation. According to the European Commission, the EU SRR Ship Recycling Regulation is “the only dedicated legally binding framework regulating ship recycling.”

First ship arrived

“We have just received and safely moored our first EU ship recycling project, the MT Wolverine,” said Chris Green, senior manager at International Shipbreaking Ltd.

“There is a big future in this industry and, over the past year we have seen three times the number of inquiries from EU ship owners. This indicates the shipping industry is taking more responsibility for how their ships are recycled, rather than using the South Asian shipbreaking beaches.”

As of 2018, 90.4% of the world’s end-of-life vessels were broken up on the beaches of South East Asia in rudimentary conditions, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. The EU SRR aims to help responsible ship owners clean up their act and make the shipbreaking industry greener and safer. Increasingly, banks and investors are unwilling to fund shipping companies who cannot prove that their ships are recycled responsibly.

Safety and compliance

International Shipbreaking has been safely recycling ships and marine structures since 1995, Green added. During this time over 100 vessels have been recycled, with an excellent compliance record.

“We have a corporate culture of safety compliance and our very experienced staff completes due diligence, including safety and environmental assessments, before we even make a bid for a project. This allows our team to accurately estimate the cost of hazardous material removal/disposal and the revenue we will receive for the recycled metals,” he said.

“These ships contain extensive hazardous materials that require containment and removal. To think this operation could be conducted any other way is reckless and irresponsible. We hang our hat on compliance and providing our customers with a recycling service that they can be proud of.”

Final destination Brownsville

The Port of Brownsville is the final destination for many ships and maritime structures. Since 1995, more than 100 vessels docked at the port and more than 500,000 tons of scrap metal have been transported through the port.

The activity gives ships and maritime structures a life beyond an otherwise end-of-life cycle. Shipbreaking, together with the highest standards of environmental stewardship, allows for valuable metal, such as armored plate, a high-end type of hardened steel, to be recycled and made into new products, including new ships, helicopter parts and other military hardware.

From crane operators to recycling metal experts, International Shipbreaking keeps 200 employees on the job. Those directly employed by the shipbreaking industry take rigorous training to keep safety in mind when managing first-rate equipment.

Indirect jobs include two other large scrap metal recycling operations at the port, All Star Metals and SteelCoast, and numerous other companies in the U.S., Mexico and around the globe where the recycled copper, brass, steel, armored plate and other scrapped metals are sold.  

The Port of Brownsville is the only deep water port located on the U.S.-Mexico Border. With approximately 40,000 acres of land available for development and 17 miles of waterfront access, the port offers a direct route to non-congested international bridge crossings and rail connections.

The available space, joined with the full stack of modes of transportation, makes the Port of Brownsville attractive to owners whose ships near the end of life. Recycled metal can be easily shipped from the port by rail, barge and truck.