Shipbreaking thrives again in Belgium

Shipbreaking began in the Netherlands at the end of the 19th century; in Belgium, meanwhile, the industry took root in 1926 when Henry Van Heyghen started his scrap business in Ghent. After World War II, just as at the end of World War I, there was a great demand for shipbreaking: hundreds of damaged wartime vessels required processing, as well as commercial sea-going and inland navigation vessels, and the many wrecks in harbour entrances.

In the Netherlands, Frank Rijsdijk’s Industriële Scheepssloperijen and Holland were the oldest and largest firms in this sector. Both located in Hendrik Ido Ambacht, they merged in 1958 to form Europe’s biggest shipbreaking firm. In Belgium, the largest shipbreakers were Van Heyghen of Ghent, De Smedt of Antwerp and Boomse Scheepssloperij of
Boom. These firms were later joined by Boelwerf in Antwerp and Brugse Scheepssloperij, which was established by Georges in Liège.

The Galloo Group
With Georges of Liège and Dohmen of Charleroi, Van Heyghen represented one of Belgium’s largest companies in the scrap sector; it was also the only one of these firms to survive the 1970s. At that time, the company was managed by Pierre and George Van Heyghen. Later, major new players emerged in the scrap sector, such as Craenhals with its branches at Willebroek and Kallo near Antwerp, and most notably the Galloo Group based at Menen on the border with France.

The Galloo Group achieved success under the patronage of the Vandeputte family, led by Antoine Vandeputte, and has developed into the largest scrap firm in Belgium. This fact was underlined in 2002 when the Galloo Group, together with the Almetal Group, acquired Van Heyghen Recycling. Since 1983, the Brugse Scheepssloperij shipbreaking firm had been part of the latter.  Indeed, through acquisitions in France (including the Cibié Group) and in the Netherlands, the Galloo Group has grown to become one of the largest such firms on the European continent, employing 450 people and handling 1.5 million tonnes of scrap in 2006. Also last year, the group turned over some 60 000 tonnes of non-ferrous scrap, 20 000 tonnes of white/brown goods, and 20000 tonnes of recycled plastics derived primarily from shredded scrap, converted into pellets and sold for use in the production of, for example, car bumpers and dashboards.

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