U.S. Ship Recyclers Deserve Equal Protection

USS Constellation arrives for demolition (courtesy Port of Brownsville)

Published Jul 15, 2016 9:29 PM by Bob Berry

The Marine Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC) advises the U.S. Department of Transportation on strengthening maritime capabilities essential to economic and national security. Economic security equals jobs, and we have plenty of them in Brownsville, Texas – and as a newly appointed member of MTSNAC, it is my goal to ensure that the department understands the needs of our industry.

Hundreds of people are employed by Brownsville ship recycling facilities to dismantle obsolete Navy carriers and MARAD vessels. We also take apart commercial vessels and oil rigs. Nothing goes to waste. The metal that Brownsville facilities recycle is reused to build vital infrastructure – bridges, buildings, even bathroom fixtures. Ship recyclers want to make sure that MTSNAC and the Secretary understand our contributions to the economy. We also want to make sure that the Secretary understands the economic importance of the Port of Brownsville: every year, millions of tons of steel products including slabs, coils, beams, and iron ore move into and out of the port. It is also a major entry/exit point for windmill components, breakbulk cargo, and liquid cargos. 

International Shipbreaking Limited is also seeking the department’s support to help us gain certification as an EU approved ship recycling facility. The latest European Commission proposal would require all vessels calling in European ports to purchase a ship recycling license; shipowners would get their money back later if they recycle the vessels in an EU approved facility. We support the new EU requirement, as our facilities can meet the EU certification standard and have the capacity and capability to dismantle more commercial vessels. International Shipbreaking Limited has already applied to be an EU certified facility and we have asked the Secretary of Transportation to advocate on our behalf with his European counterparts.

My third goal as a newly appointed member of MTSNAC is to work with members regarding the dismantlement of U.S. flag vessels.  Many in the U.S. maritime industry are strong supporters of the Jones Act's U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed requirements, but they sell their ships to Chinese, Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi recycling facilities. When U.S. vessel owners dismantle their vessels overseas, Brownsville, Texas workers suffer.  They lose out on work, and that doesn't happen at the major shipyards in California, Connecticut, and Virginia. U.S. shipbuilders demand that their workers be protected and we want the same treatment.  It's time to stop outsourcing Texas jobs.

U.S. ship recyclers don't expect MTSNAC members to be able to solve all of the maritime industry's problems.  But we do believe that we can provide valuable input to the Secretary of Transportation and the Maritime Administration as they develop new administration policies.  Promoting growth in the domestic ship recycling industry should be part of these policies, and I look forward to working with MTSNAC to implement them.

Bob Berry is vice president of International Shipbreaking Limited.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.