Where Ships Go to Die

Ever wonder what happens to those huge ocean-going ships when they outlive their usefulness and are decommissioned? It turns out they are usually sailed to a place called Alang India where they are dismantled and sold by the pound for scrap metal.

Now, one might think that, once they reach Inida, they would be placed in dry dock and methodically taken apart and recycled. Not so in Alang. When is ship is ready for the Indian shipbreakers, it is taken out to sea by a small crew, brought up to a full steam and run head-long into a beach with mile after mile of ghostly old ships in varying stages of disassembly.

Once these ships are smashed into the beach, dozens of extremely low paid Indian workers descend upon them like ants. Working with bare hands, torches and crow bars they begin to tear the ship apart mere minuets after it is run ashore. Steel plates rain down into the murky water, and are hauled away to nearby foundries where they are melted down and turned primarily into re-bar for construction projects.

As the ships are striped and their weight reduced, chains are attached and they are hauled further up onto the beach. Eventually only a skeleton of the once great ships remain, and then, nothing at all.

The truly sad part about this shipbreaking business is that the workers are not only paid near-slave wages, they are exposed to nearly every industrial toxin known to mankind. The lives are typically extremely short and filled with constant injury and pain. Luckily, however, With the Indian government’s recent announcement to cut the duty for steel imports to 15%, ship demolition in the country is facing uncertain future. For the first time in several years, we are finally seeing a small drop in the number of ships being demolished in Alang.

One thought on “Where Ships Go to Die

  1. Wow. Its sad to see these people working for so little in such a hazardous work environment. Its even sadder still to think about them becoming job-less as work is cut back. Kind of a catch-22.

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