Q790/Le Clemenceau update
THE RECYCLING OF THE FORMER FRENCH AIRCRAFT CARRIER – LE CLEMENCEAU (Q790)
In 2006, the French Government took the decision to ensure that the dismantling of the former flagship of the French fleet – Le Clemenceau – was undertaken within Europe and to the very highest environmental standards. In order to achieve this, the French Navy conducted an extensive review of potentially suitable European facilities and this culminated in the ultimate short listing of five companies. In that competitive tendering process the majority of the assessment was based on technical competence.
The contract to recycle the Q790 was awarded to Able UK Ltd in June 2008. In February 2009 the Q790 arrived at the Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre (TERRC) on the River Tees at Able Seaton Port (ASP), Hartlepool on the UK’s North East coast, and after notification and approval through the European Union (EU) Regulations for waste shipments.
LATEST NEWS – JANUARY 2010 FEATURE
This issue essentially describes the preparation and process involved with the initial dismantling of the Q790 together with other news on the project.
The first ‘cut’ of the Q790 hull and flight deck took place on 18th November and saw the removal of the first section from the bow of the vessel. The hull dismantling process is probably best described as being akin to the slicing of a loaf of bread. Each of the 80 or so slices comprises around 300 tons in a process that will be complete by Summer 2010.
Each cut is specifically designed to take into account the shape of the hull and to ensure both a safe and efficient process. Each section involves a ‘controlled’ descent to the dry dock floor. The main cutting operation is a combination of the cold ripper technique originally pioneered by Able UK and cutting with oxygen and propane gas.
Once on the dry dock floor the materials for recycling are segregated – essentially the separation of the ferrous and non-ferrous materials - which are then processed to the appropriate sizes required by the identified recycling route.
The ferrous (steel) will form an important element of future steel production and, as a ‘raw material’, can comprise up to 90% of new product depending on the re-melt process at the receiving steel works. The non-ferrous materials comprise copper (mainly pipes), brass (instrumentation, valves and gauges), aluminium (used as a lighter metal in a variety of fittings and furniture) and stainless steel (sinks, urinals, cooking area etc). Some of the items for recycling will be sold ‘as is’ for re-use, some will be refurbished and sold for re-use with the balance recycled in the production process for new product.
ABLE have achieved a 98% recycling rate for the redundant oil platforms dismantled at Able Seaton Port and are confident that they will be able to achieve a rate in excess of 92% for ships.
FRENCH ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATION VISIT
On Wednesday 25th November 2009 SSF (Service du Soutien de la Flotte) – representing the French Navy – hosted a visit to Able UK Limited. Invitations to visit had been sent by SSF to a number of French organisations who had expressed either an interest or had commented on the contract surrounding the recycling of the Q790 – the former aircraft carrier Le Clemenceau.
The visit included a series of presentations from both ABLE’s senior management team and from SSF. The presentations covered ABLE, its background and growth, the Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre (TERRC) site itself and a progress update on the contract. The meeting concluded with a site visit to TERRC at Able Seaton Port and a tour of the Q790.
Commenting on the visit the Robin de Bois spokeswoman said, "...the dismantling of the former Clemenceau is a positive and pioneering operation in Europe in the technical and information fields. It is also an exemplary operation for the cross-border transfer of waste, which is carried out under the framework of the Basel Convention".
Glyn Wheeler, Managing Director of Able UK Limited and the Project Director commented that “The visit heralded another positive chapter in the recycling process of the Q790. The myths and exaggerated claims that seemed to characterise much of the initial interest have been overtaken by the real facts, by real activity on the ground and by a company and workforce that is proudly and professionally getting on with a business that we understand in a facility that is ideal for the task”.
NOVEMBER 2009 FEATURE
This issue essentially describes the preparation and characteristics of the dry dock and provides an update on the project’s overall progress.
The dry dock – at 10 hectares one of the world’s largest – is central to the process of ensuring that the ship recycling programme maximises operator safety and environmental protection.
The dry dock at ASP was built in the early 1970’s by Laing Offshore who had acquired the site in 1969. It was originally designed to enable the construction of large Offshore Structures on land within a dry dock. Once the dock gates were opened the completed structure could subsequently be floated out of the dock and transported to its operational location in the North Sea and beyond.
Laings and their various partners were involved with a number of projects with the final contract – the BP Ravenspurn – completed in 1988.
The yard was acquired by Able UK in 1996 and since that time the site as a whole has seen some £50m of improvements culminating, in November 2009, with the re-establishment of the dry dock.
The restoration required the construction of a 170m cofferdam. This was constructed in ‘wet’ conditions and utilised 102 tubular steel piles. Each measures up to 30m in length and they are 1,420mm in diameter and 18.7mm thick. The piles are driven in to the ‘sherwood sandstone’ bedrock to form twin parallel ‘combi-walls’. The 14m span between the twin walls is filled with clean granular material capped with 300m of clay and topped with stone.
The twin walls are tied together at low water level by 100No. high strength steel bars with a safe working load of 120tons each.
The structure has a combined weight of over 55,000tons – almost twice the weight of Le Clemenceau - and by virtue of its width and strength the cofferdam now also provides an effective and additional vehicle route between the west and east ends of the basin.
Able UK carried out the full construction of both the cofferdam and the neighbouring heavy duty quays. The detailed designs were prepared and quality assured by consulting engineers (WA Fairhurst) and they have now fully certified the finished structures.
Following the completion of the cofferdam the dock itself then had to de-watered and, although some dredging operations had taken place prior to this year, the remaining challenge involved the removal of the silt that had accumulated over the last 19 years.
The re-instatement of the dry dock represents a significant achievement and now presents both the Company (and the area in general) with an important economic asset that has the capacity to attract a potentially wide range of ‘new’ business opportunities.
In the medium term Able UK retain the aspiration to replace the cofferdam with new, purpose built, dock gates. This would enable a far greater and more cost effective level of flexibility and would generate significantly increased opportunities linked to both construction and dismantling projects.
The dry dock covers some 10 hectares (25acres) which is the equivalent of 100No. Olympic sized swimming pools. It measures 360m by 290m and is 15m deep.
As has been confirmed by a large number of environmental bodies, agencies and Governments a dry dock represents the ideal solution for ship recycling operations. Indeed the list of organisations subscribing to this increasingly established fact continues to expand. Greenpeace have long since advocated this view as have both the French and US Governments and the UK Government has incorporated this as best practice in all relevant policy statements.
The dry dock is really the central feature and one of the major benefits of ASP for ship recycling allowing Able UK to provide what is widely regarded as the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO).
It enables the full containment and monitoring of all materials and prevents any leakage or spillage into river waters.
PROGRESS ON Q790 DISMANTLING - 18th November 2009
In addition to the preparatory works described above, and as discussed in the previous issue, the remediation process – the removal of asbestos contaminated material – has been continuing. To date circa 55% of this material has now been removed.
During the removal process there have been particular aspects connected to some asbestos contaminated material, which has been used as a cover or gasket on many structural girders and beams throughout the vessel. Effectively the asbestos has been applied as a thin ‘veneer’ and, whilst the quantities are small, both the work itself, and accessing the structures, means that its removal is detailed and time-consuming.
In the meantime the first element of the actual dismantling process – the removal of a section of the bow – is scheduled within the current week. That process will continue through to completion and will be expanded upon in the next feature.
Project completion is Summer 2010.
Able Seaton Port (ASP) has a long history, originally as a shipyard and then as an offshore fabrication and assembly facility (operated by Laing Offshore). It was acquired in 1996 and since then a significant improvement programme (some £50m) has been actioned.
It covers an area of 51 hectares (126 acres) with a 10 hectare (25 acres) dry dock with a 116m wide access. Today ASP also features a 306m quay with significant heavy load out capacities and, along with a number of new buildings recently developed it is now well placed to secure a variety of new contracts and tenants. These are likely to include offshore oil and gas construction, maintenance and re-fits, renewable energy activities as well as further decommissioning work.
In addition to the Q790, other vessels currently berthed for recycling include four ships from the American National Defence Reserve Fleet - the Canopus, Compass Island, Canisteo and Caloosahatchee and two British vessels.
Launched in 1957, Le Clemenceau was the mainstay of the French naval fleet and sailed over a million nautical miles before being withdrawn from active service. The vessel is 255m long with a deck width of 51.2m and is up to 65m high. The gross tonnage was 32,780tons and this is the largest ship recycling project to be undertaken in Europe.
The vessel comprises well over 1,300 individual areas including void spaces (or structural compartments), holds and bilges.
Able Seaton Port is now also established as an important base for the maintenance and stacking of oil rigs. A fourth rig is anticipated to arrive in January and will provide work for both ABLE and the local supply chain.
ABLE UK LIMITED – EXPERTISE
Able UK Limited is one of the EU’s leading demolition companies and has extensive experience across a wide range of large scale and challenging projects. Indeed from their outset in 1966 Able have pioneered a number of new techniques, which are now standard industry practice and have seen Able successfully complete the demolition of 11 Power stations, 9 refineries and numerous structures including large buildings and bridges. Clients have included: British Gas, BNFL, British Steel, ICI, Eon and RWE. From the mid 1980s Able has also established the position of market leader in the emerging industry surrounding the decommissioning and recycling of redundant Oil Platforms. To date work has been successfully completed on 14 such oil platforms for clients who include BP, Hamilton, Mobil Exxon, NAM and Shell. In 2009, the BP North West Hutton Platform – the largest Oil Platform to have been removed from the North Sea - was successfully recycled at TERRC.
OCTOBER 2009 FEATURE
This is the first in a number of features that will inform readers about the process and progress of the decommissioning and recycling of the Q790 (Le Clemenceau).
This first issue essentially sets the scene and explains what has been happening since arrival. Future features will highlight other areas of activity including the preparation and characteristics of the dry dock, the dismantling process itself and the overall recycling performance.
Since the arrival of the Q790 on 8th February 2009, Able has been re-establishing ASP’s dry dock – at 10 hectares it is one of the largest in the world. In itself this has been a major project. The dewatering of the dry dock has been completed successfully. As at October 2009 the final stages of the process, including the removal of 19 years of accumulated silt, were close to completion. Once the dock floor is cleared of silts a baseline survey of the dock floor will be undertaken to ensure protection of the environment.
The large dry dock, in many ways, is the central feature and one of the major benefits of TERRC for ship recycling allowing Able to provide the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) through the dismantling phase, with full containment and monitoring of all materials and the avoidance of any leakage or spillage into river waters. In fact, the deployment of a dry dock in ship recycling is seen as best practice by Able UK, Greenpeace, many Governments and a number of other international bodies and was, of course, a major factor in the overall selection process employed by the French authorities.
It should be recalled that the methods and facilities employed by Able are in stark contrast to those used at a number of locations across the world, in particular the developing countries where there are little or no precautions in place to protect both human safety and the environment with a significant number of deaths occurring all too frequently.
RECYCLING OF Q790
The recycling of any ship, and especially a former aircraft carrier, is a complex operation that needs to be undertaken in the appropriate facility and with considerable care in respect of both operator safety and environmental protection.
Since the vessel arrived, the controls by the Environment Agency (EA) in the context of the Waste Management Licence have been completed successfully and asbestos removal works are now well underway.
The asbestos removal operation started in April 2009 and has involved up to 80 specialised and dedicated workers on board.
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. The substance has a high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and is resistant to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties, asbestos materials have been used in a variety of building materials for insulation and as a protective fire-retardant.
Before the dangers of asbestos were fully understood it was used extensively throughout the world. From the 1950s through to the mid 1980s the construction of virtually all large scale structures (be they ships, buildings or industrial plant) involved significant quantities of asbestos.
When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodelling or demolition activities, microscopic fibres can become airborne with the potential to be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems. It is therefore essential that asbestos is handled with great care and that during any removal work full personal and environmental protection is in place.
Able employs both the safest and best practice in asbestos removal and has a long and successful track record working with this material. The work is strictly controlled and prior to removal works the specific quantity and location of asbestos in each area is established. These controls are part of the normal Able procedures to ensure the safety of workers and protection of the environment and this process is regularly reviewed by the French Navy with the assistance of their appointed experts, Bureau Veritas.
The remediation (asbestos removal) process is now around 50% complete and demolition of parts of the ship should commence in November.
14-Feb-09 - Sunday Telegraph (by Christopher Booker)
THE BREAKING NEWS THE BBC WOULDN'T TELL
The world-beating British firm that has undertaken the recycling of a French aircraft carrier should be lauded, says Christopher Booker.
Predictably last week, when the 32,000 ton French aircraft carrier Clemenceau was towed into a breakers' yard on Tees-side to be dismantled, headlines reported that this was arousing angry protests from environmentalists
A BBC news item led on an interview with one such environmentalist complaining that Able UK, the firm responsible for the largest ship-breaking contract in Europe, had ‘no experience', didn't have a dry dock and was preparing to strip down this huge ship, carrying hundreds of tons of deadly asbestos, in the middle of an internationally-recognised nature reserve.
Had the BBC done a little more homework it might have hesitated before leading its report on such a travesty of the facts. Far from being inexperienced, Able has since 1986 built up its reputation as the most expert dismantler of ships, oil rigs and power stations in the world. Far from not having a dry dock, it has the largest there is. And exhaustive studies have shown that, like the Hartlepool power station next door, it co-habits perfectly happily with the waders in the Ramsar-accredited nature reserve across the water.
The BBC did at least then allow Able's Executive Chairman, Peter Stephenson, to explain in a measured way that the Clemenceau will only be broken up in the safest and most environmentally responsible fashion, but he was followed by a tight-lipped Environment Agency official implying that the only reason for this would be the draconian requirements imposed on the firm by the agency.
The truth is that the BBC could have reported this in a totally different way. Instead of giving the story such a negative slant, it could have explained that Able's whole purpose has been to build up a reputation as the most efficient yard in the world for breaking up and recycling potentially dangerous ships, which might otherwise have to be dismantled on a beach in India by swarms of underpaid labourers, regardless of safety rules.
Far from arousing the wrath of ‘environmentalists', apart from the local activist to whose wild claims the BBC gave such prominence, Able has won the respect of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who have both commended the expertise with which it plans to break up the Clemenceau. Far from acting responsibly only thanks to the eagle-eyed regulators of the Environment Agency, Able 's success rests on being as careful as possible with both its workers and the environment, knowing what it is doing rather better than any official jobsworth.
In other words, we might well acclaim a British firm which can beat off all competition by doing something useful as well as it can be done (and providing 200 local jobs into the bargain).
That is why Able is the only firm in Europe capable of safely dismantling the former flagship of the French navy, along with five former US Navy ships full of the genuinely dangerous brown form of asbestos (as opposed to the white asbestos cement with which it is so shamelessly confused by campaigners).
Instead of looking round for ways to niggle, we should be prepared to cheer that, in these dark times, this country can still produce a firm with the enterprise and expertise to become a world-beater, in carrying out a task which even the more responsible environmentalists recognise as being highly necessary.
13-Feb-09 - BBC RADIO 4 - TODAY PROGRAMME 'THOUGHT FOR THE DAY'
Abdal Hakim Murad – Muslim Chaplain at the University of Cambridge
There's good news this week from Hartlepool. In the midst of economic gloom, new jobs are being created. But its not shipbuilding - it's ship-breaking. The 27,000 tonne French warship the Clemenceau has just berthed, ready to be cut up into its constituent elements.
Some might regard this as a dismal sign of the decline of our shipbuilding traditions. But it turns out to be more interesting, and more hopeful.
The Clemenceau's story is a curious one. Decommissioned in 1997, she spent more than a decade roaming the seas in search of a breaker's yard. Containing many tonnes of asbestos, lead, mercury and other toxic horrors, it was not clear who would want her. At one point the intention was to sink her to create an artificial reef in the Mediterranean. The environmentalists successfully protested. Then the search was on for a yard where labour would be cheap, and safety controls basic. Turkey and Greece both refused her access to their waters. Finally, a deal with an Indian breaker's yard fell through, again thanks to protests by anti-pollution activists.
At last, this ghost ship has come to rest in England. Predictably, voices have been raised, complaining that we are the world's dustbin. But this seems to me to be wrong. The Clemenceau rests now on Teesside because of the victory of environmentalists, and global common sense.
Recycling has become a national habit. Green wheelie bins are part of the landscape, and the Clemenceau is a reminder of how huge that industry has become. If all goes well, 94% of its bulk will be recycled, under the watchful eye of the relevant agencies, and the toxic waste will be safely disposed of. Far from being a dustbin, we are beginning to contribute significantly to the global task of using our resources wisely.
People of faith, and others as well, are increasingly nervous about the basic fact of the modern world economy: we dig up materials from the ground, turn them into things we never really use, and then dump them back in the ground somewhere else. All at gigantic cost. And if we believe in the earth's resources as treasures buried by a generous Creator, who is described in the Koran as having made the world as a landscape of signs to be cherished and revered, this habit seems particularly perverse.
The Clemenceau is a hopeful sign that we are starting to take our duties of global custodianship more seriously. But this is only the beginning. Environmental activists, theologies of responsible consumption, and ordinary human beings worried about the demands we make on the planet, must continue to work together. Industry is slowing down - but let us use the recession to ensure that the move to recycling speeds up.
And if we can safely recycle an aircraft carrier, creating good jobs in the process, then surely, anything is possible.
8-Feb-09 - Able UK Ltd
CARRIER ARRIVAL ‘SHOWS WE LEAD THE WORLD'
The arrival today of a former French aircraft carrier at the Able UK TERRC (Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre) facility at Able Seaton Port ‘marks a significant step forward in establishing Teesside and the North East at the forefront of an industry with tremendous potential for growth—and job creation—in the years ahead.’
That was how Mr Peter Stephenson, Chairman and Chief Executive of Able UK, summed up the significance of the company’s success in gaining the contract to recycle the vessel Q790 - formerly known as the Clemenceau - in what will be the largest ship recycling project ever undertaken in Europe.
The 32,780 tonne vessel - 255 metres long and with a deck width of 51.2 metres was manoeuvred into TERRC after its 713 mile journey from Brest which commenced last Tuesday. It is now berthed alongside four American and three British vessels also undergoing recycling.
It is expected that the actual dismantling process will begin this summer and last for around a year, providing 200 jobs.
Said Mr Stephenson “This is an important day for our company and the region as a whole. This was seen throughout the world as a highly significant contract and the fact that it has come to our facility demonstrates that we are recognised as a world leader in the field of ship and marine structures recycling.
“It should be remembered that we have been involved in this activity for many years - indeed currently at TERRC we are involved in the recycling of the North West Hutton platform - the largest Oil Platform yet to be removed from the North Sea oil fields.
“It is to the credit of the French Government that they recognised the importance of ensuring that the Q790 should be recycled at a facility where the work will be undertaken safely and under the best available environmental conditions. I believe their action underlines the growing understanding in the World of the responsibility that ship owners need to ensure that redundant vessels are no longer merely abandoned on the beaches of developing countries. I strongly urge governments and environmental bodies to emulate the French example and to seek to outlaw cheap rate, unregulated and dangerous practices that pose an ongoing threat to both the environment and unprotected workforces.
“With the biggest dry dock in the world, Able Seaton Port is clearly established as world leader with the potential for other major construction projects in the environmental and renewable energy sectors, including wind and wave power technology.
“We have faced many challenges in reaching this point, not least in seeking to combat a campaign that has consistently chosen to ignore the facts and the environmental realities. But our confidence and determination has been fully vindicated today.”
“We are proud of what we do and we should be celebrating the fact that here in Hartlepool we have a world leader, employing local people and supporting local businesses. We can now start the process of recruitment and by Easter we should have the full complement of 200 on board involved in the recycling works.”