A most unusual sight at the vast Westpoort area in the Port of Amsterdam: Two parts of a wrecked bulk carrier rising high above barren reclaimed land. At the Decom Amsterdam facility, Dutch firm Koole Contractors is dismantling the ship’s hulk in handysize pieces ready for further processing by the local scrap industry. Koole is meticulously executing their Ship Recycling Plan for the wreck. In three months’ time, the whole ship will be gone.

2. Martijn van Wijngaarden
Ir Martijn van Wijngaarden.

This site visit report is written and photographed by ir Martijn van Wijngaarden (pictured on the right), independent marine consultant and SWZ|Maritime guest editor, consultant@vineyardseurope.nl.

The wrecked bulk carrier OS 35 had arrived at the Decom Amsterdam recycling yard loaded in two parts atop the Koole semi-submersible barge Fjord, after completing its overseas towage from Gibraltar and passage of the IJmuiden sea locks.

Also read: In pictures: Two halves of OS 35 wreck pass through IJmuiden locks on lift barge Fjord

OS 35 loaded on the Fjord

Last year, Koole signed a contract with the Gibraltar Port Authority for salvage and wreck removal of the geared bulk carrier, which had grounded after a collision. The scope also included removal and disposal of the iron rebar cargo, and recycling of the shipwreck to European standards.

The deckhouse that stuck out above water was completely stripped when the hull was still aground. Crane booms had been taken away from the submerged wreck off Gibraltar to salvage the cargo from the holds. Luboil and fuel from the ship’s bunker tanks had already been removed before the precautionary grounding.

OS 35 loaded on Fjord

Ship Recycling Plan

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, the Decom site was cleared and prepared for mooring the Fjord barge with its cargo of two bulky ship pieces for recycling. The Ship Recycling Plan was already prepared to EU standards, based on the salvors’ information from Gibraltar on the expected hull condition. This was verified by dry inspection upon arrival in Amsterdam, and the mandatory Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) was finalised by the decommissioning team. A drain bund was welded on the Fjord cargo deck to prevent any spills into the harbour.

OS 35 inside view

A permit for importing any dangerous goods was first obtained from the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) under European legislation. Weekly reports on the ship recycling progress are sent to the Gibraltar Port Authority. Panama Flag State does not require reporting.

Although strictly speaking Gibraltar is no longer EU territory after Brexit, in practice, they still apply EU law. Hence, the bulk carrier had to be recycled under the EU Waste Shipments Regulations at a recycling yard approved on the EU List. Decom Amsterdam had already secured this licence in 2021. Following the onboard survey, any remaining hazardous and flammable substances were removed first.

The two halves of the OS 35 on the Fjord

Dismantling the OS 35 in small pieces

‘The two halves of the bulker hull were exactly placed and seafastened on the Fjord deck as planned and engineered for the Gibraltar salvage,’ says Ben van Huijgevoort, Koole project manager at the site. ‘Thus, we could make a headstart with dismantling the first pieces of hull steel. As planned, the open sides of the sheared cargo holds number 3 and 2 are facing our reinforced quayside where we put our mobile cranes ready for use. This way, we are eating our way into the wreck halves at two workfronts.’

OS 35 dismantling under way

He supervises a small team of multi-skilled professionals engaged in the first-stage dismantling on the barge itself and on the finger pier. They cut small sections of hull steel, lower them in a controlled way onto the bare cargo hold floors and then lift the pieces off for transport to Overdie Metals in Zaandam by road. This specialised company has a scrap metal processing capacity of up to 750 tonnes per day.

Pieces of scrap metal removed from the OS 35

The steel transport is done by Overdie’s standard size open container lorries. In Zaandam, the transport vehicles are first weighed and then the steel chunks are deposited. Next, they are picked up, sorted by cranes and sheared in fine pieces, compacted and then stored at their Noordzeekanaal waterfront. Having their own quayside for inland and seagoing vessels, the scrap is sold in bulk and transported as raw material by water or sea to steel plants worldwide.

Cran at work near the OS 35

Non-ferrous metals like copper and aluminium will fetch higher prices in the marketplace. These materials are separated at source, using Koole’s in-house developed stripping machines. Remaining fluids in enclosed machinery piping systems are gravity drained, collected in portable tanks, sealed and disposed of.

The Japanese-built ship’s 9600 bhp main engine, remaining engine room equipment, steel shaft and bronze propeller will be lifted off in large pieces and transported on a barge across the Noordzeekanaal to Zaandam. Equipment trading value was lost in the long period of seawater immersion of the wreck. The ship’s anchors will not be traded or re-used. ‘Mr. Koole wants to display them at his yard to mark the successful completion of yet another marine salvage job,’ says Van Huijgevoort.

OS 35 dismantling under way

One of the largest ship recycling projects in the Netherlands in years

The lightweight of the OS 35 bulker wreck was 6600 tonnes upon arrival in Amsterdam. This tonnage will be completely recycled within twelve weeks. By year end, when Koole’s lease of the Decom yard expires, nothing will be left there of the once 184-metre-long hull. Ending one of the largest ship recycling projects undertaken in the Netherlands in years.

The present site of the Decom Amsterdam yard was re-developed from the earlier Amsterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (ADM) dockyard facilities where seagoing ships were built and repaired till the mid-eighties.

OS 35 inside view

Soon these premises wil change destination again. Investment company Larendael Participaties is already reclaiming surrounding lands to build its planned Dutch Superyacht Tech Campus. A prime example of up-cycling precious shipping related infrastructure in the Port of Amsterdam. Read an article on Larendael’s plans in SWZ|Maritime’s September 2023 issue, available to subscribers here.

As for Koole Contractors, with this combined salvage and recycling project successfully completed, they will be well positioned to undertake similarly challenging marine salvage and recycling projects worldwide.

OS 35

For the next months, they will be busy with remediation and partial dismantling works on the fire-stricken car carrier Fremantle Highway at Damen Verolme Shiprepair in Rotterdam Botlek.

Also read: DCMR: No hindrance expected from Fremantle Highway being in Rotterdam