Safe and sustainable way of dismantling old ships in India?

Ship dismantling also popularly referred to as “ship recycling” is a process of breaking down a ship (also called ship breaking) where it completes its life tenure.

As one of the ship disposal techniques, ship dismantling involves the retired ships to stripped off their machinery bearing the value-adding material which are rightfully reused for new ships or for other application. The steel scrapes are obtained after dismantling an old ship is used again. Moreover, all other parts such as wooden furniture, glass, steel, iron, aluminum and plastics for recycling etc are also reused for a variety of applications. When compared to sinking or abandonment, recycling is by far the most environmentally-friendly and economically sound way of getting rid of old ships.

In India ship dismantling process is carried out in Alang-Sosiya which is known as a census town in Bhavnagar in the Indian state of Gujarat. Ship dismantling process has been carried out for the past three decades. Today, more than 70 yards in Alang-Sosiya are in possession of a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention. Whilst some yards have cemented the dry beach area where secondary cutting is conducted, installed drainage systems and improved their hazardous waste.

To comply with European requirements, yards need to prove that they are able to contain pollutants and ensure safe working conditions as well as the environmentally sound management of all wastes derived from the recycling activities. In November 2016, 17 people were killed in a series of explosions on an oil tanker at a shipbreaking yard in Gadani, Pakistan. In 2019 alone, it was reported that 26 ship breakers died in Bangladesh. This is an industry that could be so much safer. Most end-of-life ships sold for dismantling today end up in the south Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as more recently the West African countries of Nigeria and Ghana

Why is ship dismantling needed?

Ship dismantling is highly necessary as the maintained expense of a particular vessel keep soaring with time and it becomes a really difficult task to handle the same. Therefore the ship-owner generally seeks for the easy way out and hand over the old vessels for the effective disposal, so that they can concentrate on dealing with other regular expenses like port charges, fuel charges and also salaries of the crew member. Disassembling of vessels comes at a huge price as it causes various environmental hazards. The non-eco friendly dismantling techniques are a serious international concern and stringent regulations are implanted to prevent the disastrous consequences. Especially, the companies that engage in the beaching affect the ecosystem at lot.

However, the bleaching method has several handicaps

  • It is difficult to avoid the pollution of these beaches by fouling, (toxic) paints residues and metal parts, leakage of the liquids recovered from the vessels.
  • The non treated ballast water and most liquid substance such as fuel, sludge, cargo, slops etc. should be removed from the ships is out on the shore.
  • Ballast sediment in the ballast tanks can be removed rather difficulty as they are containing more than 50-60% water
  • Removal of oily slops from oil tankers is also not so easy to get rid of.
  • Interestingly the ship disposal companies flourish in the third- world or fast developing nations, mainly because of the easy availability of the cheap labor.

Also the scarp price in these countries makes it attractive. On the other hand, ship dismantling plays an important role in the local economy of these countries steel mills needs scarp and other many parts of the ship can be recycled or reused.


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