The U.S. Maritime Administration has decided to end the practice of sinking end-of-use ships and instead will pursue a policy of recycling such vessels.

The change in policy relates only to ships built prior to 1985 when many vessels were often built using toxic substances.

According to the Basel Action Network, the practice of creating so-called “artificial reefs” from ships dates back to the Liberty Ship Act of 1972.

Since the program’s inception, approximately 45 ships have been disposed of at sea, along with untold tons of toxic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals built into each vessel, as well as many millions of dollars worth of steel and other metal resources.

Seas At Risk’s member organisation LPN is currently running a campaign on sinking ships as artificial reefs in Portuguese waters. The organisation is concerned about the environmental impacts of sinking such vessels and considers that recycling the ships would make for a better use of their parts.