23 October 2016

In its waning days, the USS Enterprise may hold opportunities for the shipyard that built it:

Carrier Enterprise

You can make out their distinctive profiles – massive, gray, flat-topped hulls, each with an “island” bearing big-block numbers – from miles away, such familiar sights as to be nearly taken for granted.

Yet they’re the Navy’s crown jewels, five of them based in Hampton Roads.

Since the 1920s, more than 60 U.S. aircraft carriers have been built, 30 of them at Newport News Shipbuilding. Among the more famous – maybe the most famous – was the USS Enterprise, “The Big E,” the world’s first nuclear-powered carrier, launched in September 1960.

Today, it’s back where it was built, in the home stretch of defueling its reactors – the first phase in the process that will lead to its eventual dismantlement.

Even in the face of its own impending demise, as it were, the ship may be breathing life back in the direction of its creator, positioning the shipyard for a business opportunity as big as the Enterprise itself: helping to break down and dispose of carriers and their reactors – not just building, defueling and refueling them.

The shipyard won a $745 million Navy contract for the inactivation of the Enterprise three years ago and is expected to complete the defueling work around next spring. Because it’s the first nuclear-powered carrier to be “inactivated” – prepared for its pending disposal – it presents a new set of challenges to its builder and the Navy.

“We’re learning a lot,” said Chris Miner, vice president of in-service carrier programs at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding.

The yard has its eye, down the road, on the inactivation of the carrier Nimitz. The lead ship in the class of 10 nuclear-powered carriers is scheduled to start that process in about 2025.

Because none of the conventionally powered carriers that moved into retirement before the Enterprise posed radiological issues, they wound up all over the place. Many were simply scrapped; some were sunk deliberately as targets or for other purposes, like creating a reef. Some are now museums or in play to become one.

The Enterprise has to be disposed of very differently because of the eight nuclear reactors in its midsection, which even after defueling, still bear some radioactivity.

The first step requires removing the fuel, a process with which the Newport News yard is very familiar.

It has refueled the Enterprise three times during its career, as well as refueling four of the 10 Nimitz-class carriers launched since 1972. The fifth in the class, the Abraham Lincoln, is nearing the end of that process now; the sixth, the George Washington, is next.

USS Enterprise
Crews on the USS Enterprise watch as the ship is being moored to Pier 2 at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, VA., for the final time Thursday morning, June 20, 2013.

Newport News also has significant experience refueling nuclear submarines and has been involved in some of their inactivations as well.

“There’s a lot of similarities in some of the work, but it is different because instead of refueling the ship, you’re actually positioning it for disposal,” Miner said.

Four years ago, the Navy planned to tow the defueled Enterprise around South America, to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., the proverbial graveyard for Navy nuclear-powered ships.

After the Enterprise’s arrival in Bremerton, its reactors would be removed and moved via barge to a Department of Energy site in Hanford, Wash., to be deposited in a special trench.

The rest of the vessel would be recycled in Bremerton.

Two years ago, however, the plan began to shift.

In May 2014, the Navy issued a request for information, an invitation to industry to brainstorm about how best to dismantle everything on the Enterprise except its nuclear reactors and related propulsion spaces.

In recent emails to The Pilot, the Navy said the 2012 plan, as first laid out, had been rethought.

The Enterprise dwarfs the defueled submarines commonly recycled at the Puget facility: At sea, the carrier displaced more than 95,000 tons of water, compared with the 7,800 tons of a Los Angeles-class submarine.

When the Navy began to do the math, it became clear that doing the complete recycling of the Enterprise at Puget wasn’t going to work, affecting the yard’s ability to do the highest-priority fleet maintenance work it’s charged with executing.

Once that picture came into view, the Navy shifted its focus to commercially recycling the non-nuclear sections of the Enterprise and isolating its eight reactor plants and related spaces, sealing them into a unit it calls a “propulsion space section.”

While the original idea was to ship the reactor-plant package back to Bremerton, where the reactors would be barged to the Hanford site, that, too, could change.

The Navy said last week that it issued another request for information in August, asking private industry to weigh in on possible approaches to dismantling and disposing of the sealed reactors.

The solicitation of bids for breaking down and recycling the rest of the Enterprise – and forming and sealing the reactor compartments and related propulsion spaces into a separate package – is already on the street.

The Navy issued a request for proposal, setting that chain of events in motion, during the summer. The bids are due Nov. 4. The contractor will be allowed to keep “the proceeds of the sale of scrap metals and reusable items to offset its costs of performance,” according to the request.

The work is expected to be done between September 2017 and September 2019.

What happens to the propulsion space section still is an open question.

While some industry sources maintain that the Enterprise’s sealed reactor-compartment package will end up in Bremerton, the Navy said in an email last week that it will consider the disposal of the propulsion space section at sites other than Puget Sound.

If it pursued that option, the Navy would deliver the sealed reactors to the site, on the condition that “all reactor plant dismantlement, radioactive waste disposal, and non-radioactive ship dismantling and recycling work (is) accomplished at a facility meeting all applicable requirements” within the United States, the Navy email said.

Miner said that Newport News Shipbuilding is an interested party and brings to the table more than its years of experience building and tending to nuclear carriers and submarines.

In early 2014, its parent company, Huntington Ingalls, broadened its nuclear portfolio by acquiring Colorado-based S.M. Stoller Corp., a provider of environmental, nuclear and technical consulting and engineering services to the U.S. Department of Energy and other customers.

The company’s website cites the government’s Hanford facility – where Navy reactors have been disposed of – as one of the places where Stoller has experience.

Early last year, Huntington Ingalls announced it had created a new subsidiary – Stoller Newport News Nuclear, or “SN3” – a full-service nuclear operations and environmental services company that combined Stoller and Newport News Nuclear, another of its subsidiaries.

Miner said the addition of the company’s SN3 unit enables Huntington Ingalls to offer the Navy an attractive package for handling future carrier dismantlements.

“We certainly see there’s an opportunity and we’re interested in it,” he added.

While Miner alluded to other “industry partners” without identifying them, Defense News reported last year that they could include several companies in Brownsville, Texas, on the Gulf Coast, that specialize in cutting up and recycling old ships.

If the Enterprise were towed to Brownsville, its dismantling would include the creation of the propulsion space section, the sealed unit containing the ship’s reactors and related spaces.

It would then be delivered by the Navy to Puget Sound or wherever else the Navy determined the work could be safely done.

Over the past three years, the Navy has awarded contracts to International Shipbreaking, All Star Metals and ESCO Marine to tow five conventional carriers – the Forrestal, Saratoga, Ranger, Independence and Constellation – to Brownsville for scrapping.

The amount of the awards has ranged from a penny to $6 million.

Why the huge variation?

Two of the ships were towed from the East Coast, while the other three were hauled from Bremerton, Wash., requiring trips around South America, industry sources said.

The companies make their money through the sale of the metal they harvest.

Wherever else the Enterprise may be dismantled, there’s no chance it would be done at its Virginia home.

“Newport News is not pursuing dismantling the Enterprise here at our facility,” Miner said. “I’ll just put it straight up: That’s not something we are pursuing.”

Source: pilot online.

Third ship to be recycled in Liverpool; $11 million tender awarded to R.J. MacIsaac

LIVERPOOL - It looks like Liverpool may be the centre of a new shipbreaking industry. R.J. MacIsaac Ltd. has just been awarded a tender worth almost $11 million to tow and scrap the retired naval vessel Iroquois at Port Mersey Commercial Park.

The Iroquois, a former Canadian warship, will be joining its sister ship The Algonquin in Liverpool. R.J. MacIsaac has been awarded the tender – worth almost $11 million - to scrap the ship.

The company is already in the process of recycling two other former naval vessels – the Algonquin and the Protecteur. That contract, awarded last November, is worth $39 million.

 Queens Region Mayor Christopher Clarke says the news of a third contract buoys the hope that Liverpool will become a ship recycling centre.

“What might have been just a two year employment opportunity, it looks as now its going to turn into an industry down at Port Mersey,” he says.

“It’s excellent news. I know the last time that Mr. MacIsaac was here and I was chatting to him, he was talking to me in terms of ten year plans and 20 year plans. Well this seems to give some substance to that line of thinking that yes, there’s going to be an opportunity to have the ship recycling as an industry on our shore.”

 The Iroquois is the sister ship to the Algonquin.

It was decommissioned in 2015 after 43 years of service. It was considered Canada’s flagship destroyer when it was built and took to the seas.

According to the tender document released by Public Works Canada, the contract was awarded to R.J. MacIsaac today. The contract stipulates that the ship must be completely recycled within 18 months.

The Protecteur arrived in Liverpool in April, after a two-month tow through the Panama Canal The Algonquin arrived in early June.

R.J. MacIsaac is in the process of dismantling Protecteur while the Algonquin waits, tied up at the dock at Port Mersey.

There are no details at this time on when the Iriquois may be heading to Liverpool, but Mayor Clarke says today’s award is extremely good news for Queens.

“I know there a lots more vessels in Canada. I know there are something like six to 800 vessels waiting to be recycled,” says Clarke.

Source: the advance. 12 October 2016

Mexico begins scrapping North Korean ship: local media

Scrap will be sold to cover the cost of the operation

The Mu Du Bong in Mexico, spotted by Curtis Melvin. Image: Google Earth

Mexico has removed and begun scrapping a North Korean vessel which crashed into its coastline over two years ago, according to local media.

The scrapping will be conducted by a local company called San Miguel, who will sell the scrap to cover the costs of the operation, according to an article from Noticieros Televisa published recently.

“It means moving the ship from the port where it was, which is called Duque de Alba that belongs to the Port Authority, to a specialized terminal called Demeresa to begin scrapping the vessel,” Alberto Orozco Peredo, harbourmaster of the local port, told the Mexican media outlet.

Mexican authorities decided to move the sanctioned ship as it was becoming a danger to the environment, an earlier report said. The decision to finally scrap the vessel puts an end to any North Korean hopes of the ship’s return.

The North Korean government protested furiously over the ship’s seizure and continued detention, even causing a minor diplomatic incident in 2015 at the UN. Since then, DPRK media has continued to protest Mexico’s decision to seize the ship, claiming it was used for legitimate business purposes.

The Mu Du Bong struck a local reef in 2014 on a return trip from Cuba. The ship was owned by Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) – a known North Korean weapons smuggler – and was subsequently held in accordance with UN resolutions.

But the drawn out process of seizing the vessel took over two years. During that time the Mexican Government only issued one statement, saying the country was following the will of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

“The Foreign Ministry stressed that this situation is not due to any dispute of a bilateral nature and that the decision not to authorize the release of the ship derives solely from the need to comply with international obligations,” a translation of the statement released last year reads.

The case represents the only time a UN member state has seized one of OMM’s assets. Even the Chong Chon Gang, another OMM ship caught with weapons aboard when sailing through the Panama Canal a year earlier, was eventually released.

Even if the Mexican authorities had returned the ship, its subsequent addition to a further UN blacklist this year would have limited its usefulness. An NK Pro report yesterday revealed that some of the country’s sanctioned vessels seem restricted to moving flood relief supplies between North Korean ports.

Source: NK news. 18 October 2016


Brussels, 20 October 2016 – Today, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an own initiative opinion that calls on the European Commission to introduce an incentive that will “eliminate the abuses of irresponsible ship dismantling through a system which creates added value in an end-of-life ship”. SEA Europe, IndustriAll Europe and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform join the EESC in supporting an incentive that will make sure ships are recycled in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

“European ship recycling companies are competitive with regards to sustainability and should be encouraged by an enabling public policy that will push ship owners towards the use of these facilities as well as enhance R&D towards more cost effective solutions in Europe,” says Christophe Tytgat, Secretary General of SEA Europe.

The aim of a financial incentive is to make sure that ship owners use the upcoming EU list of approved ship recycling facilities and do not simply circumvent the EU Ship Recycling Regulation by flagging out to a non-EU ship registry. The EESC opinion supports a financial incentive that recognises the responsibility of the ship owner through the ‘polluter pays principle’ and builds the cost of responsible recycling into ship operating costs.

“The social and environmental impacts of shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia can no longer be viewed as an externality and should be accounted for in shipping companies’ individual accounts. Introducing a financial incentive at the EU level is feasible and in line with established legal principles. It also brings with it the promise of ensuring compliance with environmental and social standards aimed at improving ship recycling conditions globally”, says Ingvild Jenssen, Policy Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Ensuring sustainable ship recycling fits well with the EU’s aim of achieving a truly circular economy where valuable resources are not only reused, but also recycled in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The EU list of ship recycling facilities will function as an important market differentiator for yards that have already invested in proper occupational health, safety and environmental standards.

“Shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia is considered by the ILO as one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. Incentivising sustainable practices is necessary for the creation of decent jobs in the ship recycling sector,” says Luis Colunga, Deputy General Secretary of IndustriALL Europe.

SEA Europe, the European Ships and Maritime Equipment Association is the voice of the European maritime technology industry. SEA Europe promotes and supports European business enterprises which are involved in the building, construction, maintenance and repair of all types of ships and other relevant maritime structures, including the complete supply chain of systems, equipment and services. www.seaeurope.eu
IndustriAll European Trade Union represents 6.9 million working men and women across supply chains in manufacturing, mining and energy sectors across Europe. IndustriAll Europe aims to protect and advance the rights of these workers. www.industriall-europe.eu

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform is a global coalition of 19 environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations working to prevent the dangerous pollution and unsafe working conditions caused when end-of-life ships containing toxic materials in their structure are freely traded in the global marketplace. www.shipbreakingplatform.org

Ingvild Jenssen
Policy Director & Founder
NGO Shipbreaking Platform
+32 2 6094 420

Source: shipbreaking platform. 20 October 2016

Sustainable Ship Recycling Technology Patent Set for Approval:

MER Group Receives Notice of Allowance by US Patent Office.

MER Group Reliant Floating DryDock

Ceiba, Puerto Rico- Marine Environmental Remediation (“MER”) Group announced today that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a “Notice of Allowance” for MER Group’s advanced technology used to reduce or eliminate the release of certain contaminants during the vessel recycling process. The device, which MER has trademarked under the name WaistcoatTM was designed to capture slag, dust, and other contaminants released during conventional vessel demolition operations. The WaistcoatTM concept and technology has uses in non-marine applications as well. “MER Group is utilizing innovative business strategies, techniques and technologies to transform the way ship recycling is performed on a global basis” stated MER CEO Martin Vulaj, adding “We are particularly proud of this technology as it presents a revolutionary new alternative to the dangerous and environmentally harmful methods of beaching vessels for scrapping currently in use in many parts of the world.”

MER Group has pioneered an environmentally sensitive process of dismantling obsolete vessels that meets or exceeds all U.S. EPA, OSHA, state and territories regulations. These standards will also become the required performance levels for European Union-flagged and owned ships under the new EU Ship Recycling Regulation.

Under US patent law, a Notice of Allowance is the final step before actual patent issuance. It signifies that the US Patent & Trademark Office has conducted its review and has found that the patent should be granted. The MER Group’s WaistcoatTM is currently in use at MER’s new, innovative ship recycling facility in Puerto Rico, and has proven effective in protecting the environment from contaminants that, in conventional vessel scrapping operations, would otherwise have fallen into the water or onto the ground.

“The new EU Ship Recycling Regulation requires that responsible companies in this industry must develop methods for capturing, containing and eliminating sources of pollution from the ship breaking process,” noted MER Group Founder and CCO Larry Kahn.

The WaistcoatTM technology is relatively inexpensive to install and use, and the device is able to be re-used on successive vessels undergoing demolition for recycling. MER Group’s research and development staff is pursuing additional processes and products to protect the environment while reducing safety risk for vessel recycling workers.

MER Group established their first environmentally-safe ship recycling facility at the former US Naval Base at Roosevelt Roads in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, in January 2016, and currently has 3 vessels and 3 oil rigs under or awaiting processing.

An estimated 75% of the vessels culled from the world’s commercial fleet end up at yards in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where the vessels are run aground for demolition and scrapping. There were 768 vessels scrapped world-wide in 2015, with projections for further vessel demolitions rising due to the delivery of larger container vessels into the global container fleet, and a surplus of capacity.

“We hope to dramatically change the way the vessel scrapping industry treats the environment and its workers for the better,” said Mr. Kahn.

Source: American Journal of Transportation. 20 October 2016