Thursday, 2 February 2012


Depending on your 'green' credentials, demolition has been described as scrapping, recycling, beaching or environmental vandalism. Whatever the name, the MO is pretty universal in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ships at the end of their economic life are driven ashore as fast as their tired engines can propel them before workers swarm aboard like ants to begin the deconstruction. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...

The ship recycling business exists in a symbiotic relationship with the freight market. When the planets align, and the prospect of cash in hand outweighs the prospects of future hire, the ship will be circulated in the dark and murky world of the Cash Buyer. Demolition sales are notoriously fickle and fraught commercial deals. The value of the ship depends on a lot of factors - how much steel, how much bunkers remaining, how many spare parts on board, rising or falling scrap market? The Cash Buyers is like an Undertaker, stewarding the ship's passing from the living world of maritime commerce to her grave. The Cash Buyer provides financial certainty of a clean sale to the Owner and then starts hawking the ship around the demolition markets in the Indian sub-continent (and possibly China). The Cash Buyers risk and margin is finding a Shipbreaker who will pay more then the Cash Buyer's cost of the ship and the scrapping voyage.

Once beached, just about everything is recycled in some form. Steel is mostly re-rolled into reinforcing bar for the construction industry, machinery is refurbished or dismantled for spare parts, cabin furniture and galley equipment goes into homes and hotels. One of the biggest ethical issues is the poor safety record of deaths and injuries of workers and the dumping of hazardous wastes on the beaches and in the sea. China, Turkey and India have ISO-certified recycling yards with end to end custody of hazardous material, but these are still the exception rather then the rule.

The photo is Alang Beach on the west coast of India, probably the largest collection of demolition sites in the world. After a seagoing career of avoiding running aground, the Antipodean Mariner harbours a burning desire to beach a ship. Maybe an opportunity for adventure tourism?

The Antipodean Mariner


  1. That would be quite the adventure!

  2. Perhaps the former skipper of the 'Rena' could still have a future in the industry. With his track record the ships would beach past the high tide mark.