It is often difficult to explain to people why one ship recycling facility is deemed acceptable compared to another. Poor certification practices create a false impression that badly operated facilities meet international requirements; legislators and others in the industry continue to state that some methods of recycling are acceptable, but others are not; some of the recyclers themselves struggle to explain the fundamental differences between the ‘landing’ and ‘beaching’ of ships; and there continues to be sweeping generalisation about standards by country, rather than investigation into individual facilities regardless of their location or method of recycling.

Understandably, this has led to confusion within the ship recycling industry, and in the wider maritime community.

To add to the confusion, for decades there were four main recognised methods used to recycle ships: Drydock, Alongside, Landing, and Beaching. However, in the last couple of years, a ‘new’ type of ship recycling facility has seemingly arrived on the scene, specifically in Alang, India. The term for this new recycling method has been coined by the recyclers themselves: ‘Intertidal Landing’.

But what is this new type of recycling – is it simply shipbreaking jargon, or a legitimate new method? And where does it sit in the beaching versus landing debate?

Rather than stating that landing is always ‘good’ and beaching is always ‘bad’, this summary seeks to contrast defining features which, if operated well for a landing facility and poorly for a beach, will help to illustrate the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.  Further, we illustrate some possibilities of how an acceptable compromise of an ‘Intertidal Landing Facility’ may be achievable, although we do not comment on the economics of this proposal or its long-term viability.

For the purposes of the illustration below, the following generalisations / examples apply:

‘GOOD’ LANDING FACILITY: A landing facility located in Turkey with Hong Kong Convention certification and an application for inclusion on the EU List of Facilities under consideration.

‘BAD’ BEACHING FACILITY: A traditional beaching facility located in Pakistan with no reputable certification and substantiated media reports relating to loss of workers’ lives due to HSE issues.

‘INTERTIDAL LANDING FACILITY’: An upgraded beaching facility located in India with Hong Kong Convention certification and an application for inclusion on the EU List of Facilities under consideration.

For ease of illustration, the ‘bad’ aspects may be somewhat accentuated.

Approach, ship navigation and control:
Deep water in which the vessel can navigate freely will be available until the immediate proximity of the facility; at a good landing the vessel can float freely at a normal ballast draft for the propeller, allowing normal navigating conditions using the rudder. The vessel approaches the landing gently, as at a pier, and at an agreed speed. In the final moments, the trim is adjusted to be equal to the landing angle. The final landing is a gentle, calm controlled action where either the propeller gently provides the last thrust to touch the landing, or a tug does the same. The vessel shall touch and then be lowered onto the landing via discharging the last of the ballast. An un-dredged tidal mudflat exists, where by the vessel, at less than operational draft and close to LDT, shall be driven, hard, such that the thrashing propeller and momentum overcome the interaction with the mud and the hull. The vessel will be aimed at the beach from deep water under the direction of a shore-based pilot and charges the beach so that she does not run out of steam early. The vessel rams the beach at an undetermined speed and at a reasonably level draft for skimming the mud, rather than protecting beach infrastructure.
A channel is dredged into the mudflat so that the vessel may navigate properly. The beach will be hard-surfaced down to the low water mark such that the vessel may be placed onto the surface as per the landing method.

Key issue: Dredging and maintaining a channel and intertidal zone on a traditional tidal mudflat.


Primary cutting and controlling the intertidal zone:
The intertidal zone will be such that the tidal range is a minimum, preferably in the range of less than one metre, with minimal currents, fetch and other exposure. This allows the forward or upper part of the vessel to be reliably vertically above the water’s edge, and horizontally away from it, for primary cutting over an impermeable surface and with drainage between the cutting area and the high-water level.

In a typical ship, specialist workers will be allowed onboard to perform small cutting operations to remove minimum amounts of the forward structure to give access down to the landing area.

As the cutting progresses down the vessel, the vessel will be continually repositioned up the landing area. The aft end is capable of floating freely to facilitate the constant movement up the landing area with the minimum of force and dragging.

All spaces to be cut are first mass estimated from drawings and agreed cutting diagrams calculated.  Lifting attachments are made to each block and the block nominally suspended under a crane, with suitable load safety factors.

The main vertical extent of the tidal range is from high-water downwards on a steeply shelving beach, with only a small part of the vertical tidal range remaining, which is where the vessel substantially sits.

Primary cutting therefore takes part in the lower tidal range, above the permeable beach and mudflat. No drainage protection exists.

Cutting takes place both vertically and horizontally above areas subject to tide and current for substantial periods of normal tide.

Large blocks are cut with no calculation and allowed to fall onto the beach, the mudflat, or the tidal water using the ‘gravity method’. These blocks, and the ship, are supported by water and are dragged up the mudflat and beach using force.

The intertidal area will need permanent re-sculpting via dredging the mudflat and re-grading the beach using impermeable materials (concrete) and drainage arrangements, thereby replicating the landing method on a beach. Activities will then proceed as described for landing. A pier or other suitable structure may be built out onto the intertidal zone to provide cranage, access and emergency response services.

Twinned, bunded piers forming semi-permanent or even gated enclosures or other solutions may be further improvements.

Key issue: Cost, maintenance, operation and protection.


Secondary cutting:
All secondary cutting takes place on impermeable surfaces with protection against run off and containment against spills.

Segregated temporary storage facilities exist for each waste stream with the specific protection requirements for each waste.

Transport and downstream waste management starts in an organised, accountable and allocated manner with all waste streams, and their destination, known and properly certified by authorities.

Secondary cutting is un-controlled and takes place over permeable surfaces such that spills can soak into ground. Area also drains freely into surface water or the sea.

Cut material lies in poorly sorted heaps and is loaded onto lorries prior to being sent to unrecorded destinations.

Steel is sold on mainly for uncertified second-hand use, such as concrete reinforcing bar.

The items are now well clear of the intertidal beach with its defining features and therefore facilities and operations at an intertidal landing facility and a landing facility should be virtually indistinguishable.


Downstream Waste Management:
The facility is part of an operation disposing of waste generated by the producer. Operations and certification cannot commence or be issued unless the whole operation is recognised and demonstrated in accordance with all relevant national and international legislation. Any part of the operation is taken in isolation and operates, or is certified, independently and without recognising the interlinked responsibilities and liabilities of upstream and downstream activities.
From secondary cutting onwards, there is no reason why beaching, landing, or any other method should be different or need such differentiating explanation. The principles of sound downstream waste management apply evenly. Both the Hong Kong Convention and the EU SRR are at times vague about downstream waste management, and often this is taken as an omission. However, it should not be; downstream waste management is a critical part of the operation and no part should be taken in isolation since responsibility of waste flows from the producer to the final disposal. Operations at an intertidal landing facility and a landing facility should therefore be virtually indistinguishable.


In conclusion, it seems that the ‘Intertidal Landing’ compromise could become a recognisable method of ship recycling, as and when it has been proven to work in practice. It should be noted that the outcome of the European Commission’s inspections at Alang’s EU List applicant yards is likely to either accelerate or stall this process.

That aside, a key issue with the increased use of the term ‘Intertidal Landing’ is that many Indian recycling facilities have been using the phrase to describe their operations long before any substantial improvements to their facilities have been made. Once one yard – who had made significant improvements to operations – coined the phrase, numerous others started applying the same term. Some of these yards continue to claim that there is no difference between landing and beaching.

Most yards in India continue to use the beaching method and, as such, the wider industry needs to recognise that the term ‘Intertidal Landing’ cannot yet be applied to all of Alang. At the time of writing, only a handful of yards in Alang have invested enough time, effort and resources to be able to consider using the ‘Intertidal Landing’ moniker – whether it becomes universally accepted terminology or not is likely to become clear in the coming months.

For in-depth advice on ship recycling facility selection, or to obtain a copy of Marprof Environmental’s ‘Ship Recycling Facility Requirements’ document please contact us.