Skip to main content

From fisherman to scrapper at the port of Grenaa

September 26, 2023

Want to know more?

When Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps came into being, it was a bit of a coincidence. Kresten Hjelm, founder of Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps, and his partner at the time were fishermen, and in the early 1990s they needed to get rid of one of their ships. Unlike today, back then you had to pay to have ships scrapped, and the two partners found it hard to see the point of paying DKK 150,000 to get rid of the ship.

The short story is that they decided to chop up the ship themselves in Grenaa. With a pitcher, angle grinder and other hand tools, they went to war and succeeded in getting rid of the ship. Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps was founded and has since grown. Today, they are one of the largest ship recycling companies in Denmark1. Their ideology is that as much as possible should be reused, recycled or upcycled - so that the residual product for landfill is as small as possible. This is good for the environment and good for the economy.

Since its inception in 1992, Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps has scrapped approximately 2000 vessels.

Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps is one of the veterans at the Port of Grenaa. For three decades, they have been located in different places at the port - both when it comes to the slipway, where all scrapping takes place, and when it comes to warehouse and administration. The slipway is located in the port area on Nordhavnsvej, while the warehouse and administration are located just a stone's throw from the port on Rolshøjvej in Grenaa.

Kick the tires before you buy

One of the basic principles that has followed the business throughout the years is that all ships purchased by the company are assessed on content and condition. This principle has been applied to all of the approximately 2,000 ships Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps has scrapped over the past thirty years.
"When we buy a ship for scrapping, we are, in popular terms, out kicking the tires, so we know what we are buying," says Kresten Hjelm. He emphasizes that it can be a really bad deal to buy a ship that comes with 20 tons of concrete ballast. Especially if you haven't noticed it. So at Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps, they make an effort to select the right ships.

The slipway where the ships end their days. The photograph was taken on May 4, 2023 when the company took delivery of a new used crane, which is used for the heaviest tasks.

Recycling is the core business

Both Kresten Hjelm and Keld Kokholm, who together make up the company's management team, are from Northern Jutland. Therefore, it's only natural that a North Jutlandic mindset and a touch of modesty characterize the atmosphere as they show you around the large warehouses.

There is approximately 15,ooo m2 of storage under the roof, where you can find all kinds of equipment from scrapped ships.

Here in the halls, you'll find everything you need if you're looking for a used marine engine, a spare part or an inflatable boat. You just have to be sure that what you're looking for is something from a ship, because you'll find it here. Either on the floor, on a shelf or in one of the boxes.

"We recycle, others buy iron. This means we dismantle the ships with a wrench. Others use an excavator and a grab to dismantle the ships. We can't do that, because then it's not recycling, but only iron for remelting and residual waste for landfill that comes out of a ship," says Kresten Hjelm, while he and Keld Kokholm kindly show you around the large warehouses, which seem almost endless.

Ship recycling will be different in a few years

But what about the future and all the talk about sustainability, green transition and climate impact? Kresten Hjelm is in no doubt - according to him, it will always be good business to be 'green', to recycle and get the best, and the most, out of what is used.
When it comes to the question of where Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps will be in ten years, he looks over to Keld Kokholm, who gives his prediction.

"We definitely won't have the same shop in ten years. It will be different. I think we'll see a much greater trend towards reuse, upcycling and recycling than we see today," he says, citing the evolution of ships. "Ships have become much more technical, there is much more electronics on board. It will require a lot more of us and our employees to handle it," explains Keld Kokholm, adding that the employees who will be scrapping the ships will have to be trained in a different way to handle the task.

By the time the ships arrive at the slipway, they have already been emptied of most of their equipment. Now all that's left is to cut up the hull, sort and drive away. Most for recycling and a small percentage for landfill.

There will still be plenty of rough work to disassemble the ship's structures, but it takes a completely different skill set to dismantle the sensitive electronics that now control most everything on a modern vessel. These days, the company is seeing a greater demand for documentation. Be it data sheets on parts, or documentation of a spare part's total operating time, or something else entirely. There are always new requirements to comply with. Either from the authorities or from customers. Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps handles these requirements professionally and safely, and is ready to scrap vessels for many years to come at the port of Grenaa.


Kresten Hjelm (left) and Keld Kokholm stay the course for Fornæs Ship Recycling Aps

- Kresten Hjelm is the founder of the company and Keld Kokholm has been co-owner and part of the management team since January 1, 2019.

- The company was incorporated on May 1, 1992

- The company has scrapped approximately 2000 vessels, the majority of which have been fishing vessels.

- There are 25 employees, of which five are in administration

- Profit for the year 2022 after tax DKK 2.008.659,-

Link to the company Fornæs Ship Recycling

According to a report published by CBS Maritime in 2021, Denmark is in the European super league when it comes to ship recycling and in the top 15 in the world when it comes to the number of ships that are recycled. Denmark is also one of the countries with the most approved ship recycling facilities on the EU list.

Read the full report Creating circular economy clusters for sustainable ship recycling in Denmark

Want to know more?

Latest news