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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Safer decommissioning of offshore infrastructure and ships: establishing a global baseline and raising awareness to help deliver safety improvements

Published: 27 July 2020
© Studio Fasching
© Studio Fasching

A consortium of researchers from the University of Southampton, Advisian (UK), University tec de Monterrey (Mexico), University of Teramo (Italy) and the NGO Shipbreaking Platform (Belgium) have been awarded funding through the Royal Academy of Engineer and Lloyd’s Register Foundation Engineering X programme to collate, investigate and disseminate data relating to decommissioning of offshore infrastructure and ships.

Decommissioning represents a complex social, environmental and engineering challenge. The International Labour Organization (ILO) describes shipbreaking as one of “the most dangerous of occupations, with unacceptably high levels of fatalities, injuries and work-related disease” (ILO 2019). As increasing numbers of offshore structures and ships reach the end of their use lives across the globe (Fowler et al. 2018), there will be an uptick in demand for these services in a range of different economic and environmental settings. Quantifying the scale and nature of the challenge, however, is far from simple. This project will build on the experience of project partners in recognising that this is as much a social as a technical challenge. It begins from the perspective that in order for informed decisions to be made, pertinent data must be publicly available and people cognoscente of it. How many structures and ships are there? How old are they? Where are they? What materials do they contain? What legislative contexts do they reside within? What economic models determine value and impact for decommissioning activities? Who is responsible for assets and why? Where are the activities currently taking place? What impacts and incidents have been reported?

Project lead for Southampton, Prof Fraser Sturt said “an open access web-dashboard will be created hosting evidential material, resources and targeted reports to address these questions. The platform will be dynamic and graphical to help monitor activities and the efficacy of attempts made to address them. Through offering this space, where data can be examined, approaches discussed and outcomes witnessed, more rapid and effective changes become possible. Critically, it will also help to highlight if improvements aren’t being adopted why this might be the case, and which levers might most effectively be used to address them.”

This award is funded through Engineering X, an international collaboration founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

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