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Dismantling old yachts will soon be a reality

News International-French

22 Jul 2011

Our fleet of yachts is ageing: one-third of them are more than twenty years old. The great variety of materials used in boat fabrication has resulted in an accumulation that is difficult to manage for a traditional waste chain.

(Published on May 2005 – JEC Magazine #17)


The growth of the boating sector is adding even more to the accumulation of old yachts. If we do not factor this development into the scenario, it could eventually become a real environmental problem.


A steadily growing waste stock

Out of the 700,000 registered boats in the French fleet, only 450,000 are in operation. Most of these are under six metres in length. Annual boat production – 5,000 cruising boats (sail and motor) produced in France for the French market, for a volume of 6,000-8,000 tons – is growing steadily, with a heavy impact on the accumulation of old pleasure boats. For the year 2005, 5,000 tons have been identified; by 2010, there will be 10,000 tons; and the forecast for 2025 is about 20,000 tons. Over the past forty years, there have been tremendous technological changes in the pleasure boat building industry, with wood being replaced by other materials such as plastics and composite materials, among others.



Project and solution

At some time or another, even a boat with a particularly long service life must stop navigating and be dismantled. There is no structure today that is set up to receive end-of-life (EOL) boats and take care of their dismantling in conditions that are compatible with the concept of sustainable development. In response to this state of affairs (and to ensure that yachting continues to be a source of pleasure), the French Nautical Industries Federation (FIN) has been studying (since 2002) the conditions needed to create an industry for the dismantling of pleasure boats. The result is the EOL Pleasure Boat project. An on-going programme of studies and experiments should be completed by the end of the year, making it possible to analyse the technical, industrial, legal, and financial aspects involved in creating the first French industrial unit to specialise in the environment-friendly dismantling of pleasure boats. The Federation has obtained the support of several French ministries (Infrastructure, Industry, and Ecology/ Sustainable Development) for the project. The French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (Ademe), the Caenla- Mer metropolitan area, the Calvados Department, and the Prefecture of the Lower Normandy region are also active partners in the project. The first unit for dismantling EOL yachts will in principle be created in Normandy.


The EOL Pleasure Boat Centre: a nationwide project

The dismantling unit will be up to professional standards, and it will have to process seven 6-to-10-metre boats per day, or 1,500 boats per year, for a volume of 2,000 tons. Nationwide development is on the agenda, which calls for six regional centres to be established along the French coastline during the 2006- 2012 time period.


The dismantling process is being planned in three stages. At first, registered EOL pleasure boats will be managed on a regional basis, to be funnelled into an industrial processing centre that is eco-labelled and certified as environmentally safe. A system of selective dismantling will be implemented at the Centre. The dismantled materials will be processed and upgraded by waste recovery professionals.


Specific operating methods Steps

Registering the boat as an EOL pleasure boat – This stage involves verifying its overall soundness, dry-docking it if necessary; establishing an official “de-registration” certificate taking the boat out of circulation; and assigning it to a regional centre for environment-friendly and selective dismantling procedures and to certified waste-management operators, who will receive an eco-label in recognition of their expertise.
- Putting the boat out of commission – This involves taking down the masts and shrouds; removing/unbolting the keel, ballast and rudder blade; removing “unattached” and portable units such as the dinghies, sails, anchors, and miscellaneous equipment; and cutting into the hull.
- Cleaning out the boat – Recovering fluids, emptying out tanks, and removing toxic products and soiled or hazardous materials.
- Selective dismantling – The metal sub-assemblies, the furniture, lights, and electrical equipment, etc.
- Separating the hull and deck and removing sub-assemblies and non-composite materials – This involves taking out as many of the composite and noncomposite boat components as possible. Cutting up, shredding, fining, and sorting procedures are used to separate and recondition the different materials and by-products to be transferred and processed through standard waste management streams.
- Dispatching the different types of waste – This final step of the dismantling process involves a multiindustry approach – material recycling, energy recovery, special processing, and ultimate waste disposal. The materials will be managed by waste-recovery/-disposal professionals, who will be subject to contracts guaranteeing certification and traceability.




JEC Composites Magazine: Is there anything comparable with the EOL Pleasure Boat project worldwide?

Philippe Fourrier: The answer is in fact very straightforward: there is practically nothing comparable. In Japan, a number of preliminary studies have been carried out, but more so focusing on material processing – including composite materials after destruction – rather than dismantling. Nevertheless, all this has remained on the drawing table owing to the volumes that are too small to possibly interest the upgrading sector. Norway went a step further by setting up the first boat processing centre but, apparently, the cost of dismantling and practical aspects weren’t correctly evaluated. The centre eventually closed down owing to the lack of unanimous support from the sector and the local authorities. To our knowledge, no other comparable programme exists in the world. I can simply say that the presentation of our project at the International Federation’s (ICOMIA) last general meeting aroused a lot of interest. In France, the French Nautical Industries Federation played an important role in setting up this project.


J.C.M.: Will six dismantling centres suffice to manage the estimated waste stock?

P. F.: In the beginning, it is a question of processing 1,500 tonnes per year and per centre to eventually reach 20,000 tonnes in 20 years. On average, about 10,000 cruising boats longer than 6m are sold each year on the French market. With six centres and 1,500 boats processed per centre, that should add up to about 10,000. Gradually, we will be able to process boats reaching their end-of-life, that is, boats that hit the market in the middle of the 70s. These boats are generally 6m long or more, which is a segment representing a minor part of the fleet. Most boats fall under the 6m mark. It will be difficult to integrate these boats – I am specifically referring to light yachts – into an industrial dismantling process in the short term and they will most probably be processed by other means and sectors.


J.C.M.: Why can’t these boats be easily integrated into an industrial dismantling process?

P. F.: The tool that is to be implemented will be oversized in relation to the problematic posed by these boats. A sport catamaran or a centreboarder doesn’t really require much dismantling. Generally speaking, you could say that it’s a composite product ready to be shredded without requiring any upstream preparatory steps. Furthermore, the volumes in question are relatively small seeing that we’re talking about small boats.


J.C.M.: Therefore, in your opinion, the volumes in question won’t be any problem and will be easily processed by downstream sectors after the dismantling process?

P. F.: We’re currently focusing on a project in Caen in Normandy. This first centre will serve as a test run making it possible to validate a certain number of hypotheses on which we have been working for several years now. In particular, we intend to validate our forecasts in terms of waste stocks and supply. The preliminary operational tests conducted over the past few months seem to confirm our assessment of the workload. In terms of downstream sectors, we’re still dealing with strategic studies.


J.C.M.: Shredding is the last stage of the dismantling process. Have you considered any upgrading and/or recycling solutions?

P. F.: Shredding is indeed the final phase. As far as wood and metal are concerned, the downstream sectors are well identified and therefore do not pose any problem. As for composite materials, preliminary tests showed that stable ultimate waste can be obtained without any difficulties, which allows us to turn to Class 2 Subsurface Containment Centres. Waste will be clearly identified so that we will always be able to locate it. If upgrading or recycling solutions are considered in the future, we will easily be able to retrieve this waste.
We are progressing in a logical manner. The sector is currently tackling an issue that is completely new to it and it is important to underline the voluntary nature of this approach. We would like to develop a clean dismantling label. We would also like to learn how to dismantle boats. At the same time, we hope to build ties with manufacturers in an attempt to move towards, if not an eco-design approach, an approach centred on the manufacture of boats that facilitates their subsequent dismantling. All these aspects are integrated into our work from the very beginning.
Therefore, we are generally heading towards landfill in the shortterm. However, we are open to all alternatives and have already initiated discussions with French regions wishing to encourage composite waste upgrading. The Poitou-Charentes region in particular springs to mind. The President of this region recently announced at the Grand Pavois de La Rochelle boat show that she hoped her region would be at the forefront on this issue. Of course, we are involved in other projects currently underway. However, we are not strong enough to deal with this issue alone: we need to find dependable partners in other industrial sectors.


J.C.M.: How will these dismantling centres be financed in the long-term?

P. F.: Concerning this strategic issue, discussions have begun within the boat industry, with the hope of creating a fund intended to finance dismantling operations. We believe that responsibility is to be shared with all actors involved in the boat industry. In order to finance the first centre, we will most probably appeal to private operators who will need us to guarantee supply and a turnover so they can secure a return on their investment in the long-term. This will be the backbone of the whole system. We can always develop the best dismantling label and set up the best sites, but if we don’t have the resources to maintain activities, then we are heading for failure. This is one of the most strategic and important aspects of the whole approach.