Adem Şimşek:I have been the President of the Turkish Ship Recyclers’ Association since 2008 and also President of the International Ship Recycling Association since 2010.
SeaNews: What is the purpose of your Association?
Adem Şimşek: According to our constitution, the aim of the Association is “to ensure professional cooperation and solidarity amongst industrialists in the ship recycling sector, to solve problems in the sector, to improve the sector by taking initiatives in technological, cultural , social fields and to make investments .”
Mrs. Nermin Ocaklı of SeaNews interviewed with Mr. Afem Şimşek in the headquarters of the Association in Aliağa
SeaNews: What is the structure of your union?
Adem Şimşek: 21 companies are members of our union. Nobody else can become our member other than these 21 companies. This is because this sector has been allotted to these 21 companies by TOKİ (Housing Development Administration of Turkey).
SeaNews: What kind of activities do you carry out?
Adem Şimşek: As an organization, we seek solutions to administrative and legal problems. Administration addresses issues directly to our association. There are of course our affiliated organizations such as ILO, IMO and BASEL. In brief, we represent our members in all these organizations.
SeaNews: your Association seems to be somewhat different from others. Could you explain what these differences are?
Adem Şimşek: Yes, we are a little bit different because our association controls almost everything. Having said that, we identify the waste of member companies, collect them, take them to temporary warehouses and finally dispose them. The Ministry of Environment gives directives to our Association.
We will ink a protocol with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in the coming days which will enable us to train asbestos removal workers and ship recycling experts. In recent months, in cooperation with Güzelbahçe Vocational High School, we provided training to enable workers to obtain the international heavy cutting worker’s certificate.
SeaNews: Do you also carry out inspections?
Adem Şimşek: Our Association carries out inspections such as the gas checking, radiation measurements and identification of hazardous waste. Companies have no say about this.
No car can come through the door you entered without the permission of the Association. If you pay attention you will see a sign at the door, which clarifies all the hazardous waste that is not allowed to pass through. There are criticisms, of course, but we always point out the same thing which I have addressed to our Ministry as well: We are being criticized while Libyans, Egyptians and Europeans come here to learn from the model that we have set up. We have emphasized that, carrying out an inspection on each of these 21 companies one by one is not feasible, even for the Administration. If we now hand over all the powers that we have, this sector will shut down. This is because we are an intermediary between the Administration and the companies. We are addressed and we answer all the questions. Who did what, where did the waste go and so on. The Administration is relieved at the moment because it is not an easy job to look after 21 companies and track who sent what to where!
So this system needs to continue. If the system halts, the shipbreaking sector cannot continue to work. Our Association has a staff of 25 employees and 20 of them are asbestos experts.
SeaNews: Is asbestos the most important problem?
Adem Şimşek: No. The most important issue for us is not asbestos. For instance, 30 ships arrived here for recycling now. Not even 300-400 Kg of asbestos could be collected out of these 30 ships. Yesterday, we boarded two ships and found out that there was no asbestos at all! This is because these ships were built in 2001. According to our statistics, the number of ships with asbestos is decreasing with each passing day. 2013 has seen the least number of ships with asbestos. Asbestos is not a problem for us. Did you know that asbestos has been banned from being used on passenger vessels since 2010? This means that existing passenger ships cannot sail without removing all the asbestos onboard -if any exists.
Asbestos has not been very commonly used in cargo ships. It was used for isolation and fire protection purposes on the side panels of passenger ships.
SeaNews: How do you dispose of other dangerous wastes during dismantling?
Adem Şimşek: Last year, in compliance with IMO, an inventory, has been prepared. All wastes are mentioned in this inventory. This is an American system, in which all possible locations of hazardous wastes on board a ship were listed. We have been working in accordance with these inventory guidelines since 2004. In fact, we do not detect such hazardous wastes .The surveyors and customs identify them. An official statement of these findings is brought to us. Hazardous wastes identified within this official report are delivered to us periodically, in different stages of dismantling. We take delivery of such wastes with a receipt and send them to the recycling firms. So all input and output of wastes are under strict observation.
SeaNews: How do you prevent environmental pollution?
Adem Şimşek: In our area of activity, every 3 months, samples of sea water are taken for testing by Dokuz Eylul University together with the Governor of the Environmental Department, and the results are sent to us.
SeaNews: Such control and supervision activities must be increasing your costs. How do you compete with the Far East?
Adem Şimşek: We have a fixed price and we cannot offer a lower one. Under normal conditions, we have no chance to compete, but we are getting ships which they are not able to get. Companies do not want to pay the high costs involved in the transportation of big ships to the Far East. This is of advantage to us. Another fact is that European companies prefer to recycle their ships in areas which comply with environmental regulations
SeaNews: In your opinion, where is the world’s most modern recycling facilities?
Adem Şimşek: Definitely in Turkey. Ours is a modern green sector complying with the most stringent criteria currently adopted at the international level. I am also the president of the International Ship Recycling Association. I can assure you that all the others are a 100 years behind us.
SeaNews: How ready will you be as an association, when the Hong Kong Convention comes into force?
Adem Şimşek: All of the facts will be revealed by the enforcement of Hong Kong Convention. We are ready for it. Whenever it is approved, we are ready to be a part of this Convention.
SeaNews: The European Union is likely to take a decision on ship recycling areas that comply with standards and send ships only to such areas for recycling. In case of such a decision, does your sector have room for a capacity increase?
Adem Şimşek: We are already negotiating with the relevant ministries with regards to increasing our capacity. Our association contributes to these efforts. The target is to provide more income from scraps to Turkey within the coming years.
How to increase capacity? This is the challenge that we face. We have 1,400 meters of coastline in total, and the entire area is only 600 acres. We already use almost 80% of the total area. We can increase our capacity by utilizing 100% of the available area.
SeaNews: What revenue has the recycling sector added to the Turkish economy?
Adem Şimşek: Our Minister recently stated that revenue added to the economy by this sector is around $ 10 billion so far. We made a contribution of $ 700 million last year.
SeaNews: How many jobs are provided by your sector?
Adem Şimşek: There are 1700 people working for the 21 companies. But there is also what we call the sub-industry - companies that recycle and re-sell the materials that we dismantle. Together with these, a total of 6-7 thousand people find employment.
SeaNews: How have you been affected by the recent economic crisis that shook the world?
Adem Şimşek: We are a sector which turned the crisis into an opportunity.
We have not been affected at all! The ship-breaking industry has reached 360 thousand tons of ship dismantling only once 17 years ago. But in the last four years, our tonnages were 435 thousand tons, 625 thousand tons and 927 thousand tons respectively. This year so far, we already exceeded 600 thousand tons. We have an upward trend. For that, we are very grateful to our Government. They lifted the bureaucratic obstacles and eventually we have got 927 thousand tons. How did we achieve this? We were under the regional administration of İzmir for formalities. In the İzmir region, the import formality for a single ship was taking three days. But now, we have been connected to Ankara. And the whole process takes 10 days! I need to disassemble the ship during this waiting period in order to receive a new ship. Because you can keep the ship arrived for recycling waiting outside at sea. For this reason, the rate of capacity use dropped slightly this year.
SeaNews: What comments do you have on the casualties on passenger ship “Pacific”?
Adem Şimşek: We are the most transparent ship dismantling region in the world.
Unfortunately, people died onboard the ship. It was not an accident that occurred during shipbreaking. When the ship arrived, it was Arafa day, and the ship was taking in water. As the ship was taking in water, a distress call was sent out. The Port Authority gave orders to dock the ship. 5 people boarded the ship in order to eliminate the risk of sinking by pumping the water out. The fatal accident took place at that time. After this incident, we have forbidden access to ships and work in the area during holidays.
SeaNews: What are your expectations from the Government?
Adem Şimşek: We would like our Government to protect us. Reduce our rents if possible, give us a special status and reduce the bureaucratic hurdles we face as much as possible. The more our road is opened, the more value we can add to the economy.
Headquarters of Turkish Ship Recyclers' association in AliağaSeaNews: You have also been the President of International Ship Recycling Association (ISRA) since 2010. What are your plans in order to improve the working environment in your sector? How can it become more environmentally-friendly and better in terms of safety and health at the work place?
Adem Şimşek: ISRA will have a meeting next week with the European Union’s environmental commission. In this meeting, we will figure out the current status of ship recycling according to EU criteria. We might be asked to comply with these criteria. If these criteria are agreed by the IMO, then EU countries will have to send their ships for recycling to areas, which comply with these criteria. As for Turkey, I can say that we have no fears regarding these criteria.
SeaNews: You are the chairman of national association, as well as the international association. What is your primary vision for both associations?
Adem Şimşek: My vision is environment, professional safety and health.
SeaNews: Finally, we would like to ask about what the future holds
Adem Şimşek: We would really like to prove that we are a green sector. I think that we have already convinced the European Union on this issue. Last year, a delegation from the European Union came here for observations and they expressed their astonishment to us.
SeaNews: The Turkish Government has targets for year 2023. What are your goals with respect to these targets?
Adem Şimşek: Our main goal in this regard until 2023 is to have a pool system for all ship dismantling operations. We would like to take at least 4-5 companies in this system. We will discuss this in meetings with Mr. Hızır Reis Deniz, General Manager of Shipyards and Shore Installations at the Administration.
SeaNews: Mr. Şimşek, we would like to thank you very much for this interview.