2013 : 1119 ships for scrapping

9 Jan 2014

Container ships on the rise

By unit
1 India, 347 (31%)
2 China, 239 (21%)
3 Bangladesh, 211(19%)
4 Turkey, 136 (12%)
5 Pakistan, 104 (9%)
6 Denmark, 19 (2%)
By tonnage of metal recycled
1 India 2.9 millions de t (31%)
2 Bangladesh 2.3 millions de t (24%)
3 China, 1.9 million de t (20%)
4 Pakistan 1.4 million de t (15%)
5 Turkey 514,000 t (5%)
6 Denmark 33,000 t (0.4%)
By category

1 bulker : 387 (35%)
2 general cargo : 245 (22%)
3 container ship : 180 (16%)
4 tanker : 164 (15%)
5 Ro Ro : 39 (3%)


With 1119 ships broken up this year, 2013 confirms the good health of the ship-breaking industry. The rhythm appeared to have noticeably slowed down compared to an outstanding year 2012 – decrease of 16% in number of ships demolished and 20% in tonnage of metal recycled – but 2013 is still by far the 2nd best year for the industry since 2006, start-up of the Ship-breaking bulletin (293 ships). The total tonnage of metal recycled in 2013 exceeds 9 millions. The volume of waste produced by the demolition of ships amounts to around 500.000 t.

667 of the broken up ships (60%) have been previously detained with their crew for non compliance to the international safety regulations. Port state controls play their full part in the cleansing of the world fleet.

327 ships (29%) measured over 200 m in length; 39 ships over 300 m have been demolished in 2013 compared to 31 in 2012 and 24 in 2011. The giants have started heading for the ship-breaking yards. The average age of ships leaving the ocean is getting younger: 28 years in 2013, 31 years in 2006.

The problems of container ships, beast of burden of globalization

The number of scrapped container ships is again on the rise. They account for 16% of the vessels demolished in 2013 and more than 21% of the tonnage of metal recycled. The typical container ship to be broken up belongs to a European ship-owner (69%), often a German one (48%). 97% of them have been scrapped in Asia. In every case, the container-ship bound to demolition flies away from Europe. With an average age of 22 years, the container ship family contributes largely to the rejuvenation of the fleet to be demolished.

The race for productivity and economies of scale favours the large container ships and pushes the smaller units towards demolition. The issue of weakness and premature aging of the whole family arises.

To date, the causes of the MOL Comfort disaster – built in 2008, with a capacity of 8100 teu (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), fractured and sunk in the Indian Ocean in the summer of 2013 – remain unknown: experts, through simulation and calculation of bending moments and stresses, cannot explain yet the buckling deformation and the fracture of the hull. They can only recommend regular inspections of the hull integrity, a container weight verification prior to loading and a speed reduction for container ships similar or over than 8000 teu in rough seas.

Container ships less than 8000 teu too suffer from the accumulation of physical, operational or accidental stresses. In July 2013, the Hansa Brandenburg – built in 2003, 1740 teu – was devastated by a major fire, towed to Mauritius, unloaded of the undamaged containers (*) and finally convoyed in tow and in the utmost discretion for demolition to Gadani (Pakistan). On December 29th, 2013, the MSC Monterey – built in 2007, 4160 teu – had to stop her voyage to Boston after à 1.50 m long crack was discovered on the main deck; she found a refuge in St Mary’s Bay, south of Newfoundland.

December 10, 2013 – pictorial of the beaching © Shahid

Hansa Brandenburg, July 15, 2013© Leonhardt & Blumberg

 12:40 pm local time

1:03 pm

1:05 pm

1:11 pm

1:14 pm


The Top 5 ship-breaking countries (India, China, Bangladesh, Turkey, Pakistan) have received 92% of the total number of ships broken up (1029 ships).

India saved its leadership in terms of units as well as tonnage, ahead of Bangladesh and China, but suffered a fall of 35% in its activity; in 2013, its relative share dropped to 26% compared to 40% in 2012. The other major ship-breaking countries saw a decline of 10% except China where the number of ships delivered in the scrapyards has been higher (+15%).


374 ships (33%) were flying a European flag or belonged to companies established in the European Union or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and 34 % were built in those countries.

The Parliament of the European Union condemned the “reckless” scrapping of old ships flying the flag of an EU member state. A wishful thinking: in 2013, only 8% of them have been dismantled in Europe. One in five ship broken up in an Asian scrapyard has been deflagged prior to the last voyage. The German ship-owners performed brilliantly the art of camouflage with 29% of broken up vessels deflagged to Comoros, St. Kitts and Nevis, Tuvalu, Sierra Leone or Togo.

United States

The United States also deflag their ships: the Presidents’ fleet – Adams, Polk, Jackson, Truman – adopted the colors of St. Kitts and Nevis and Sierra Leone prior to their beaching for demolition in India or Bangladesh.

The Vandal State of the year

The 2013 « Vandal of the year » title is awarded to Canada for the « loss » in the Atlantic Ocean of the cruise ship Lyubov Orlova, departed from St. John’s, Newfoundland in January (**) and the persistent irresponsibility regarding the export of old ships in risky conditions.

Canada does not lack resourcefulness: following the beaching of Canadian Miner in Nova Scotia in 2012, here is the disappearing of Lyubov Orlova in the North Atlantic and coming soon the sinking of Kathryn Spirit in the St. Lawrence River or elsewhere; these three ships were originally bound for demolition respectively in Turkey, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

 Kathryn Spirit, waiting to sink © Info Suroit

December 2012 and October 2013

(*) “Hansa Brandenburg: another container ship riddled with problems”, September 30, 2013

(**) Lyubov Orlova, the Ghost Ship

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