Ship dismantling is indeed a necessary process for old vessels that become costly to maintain. Shipowners often opt for ship dismantling to dispose of their old vessels and focus on other expenses such as port charges, fuel charges, and crew salaries. The primary method of ship dismantling involves breaking the vessel into parts before further dismantling them. One of the largest ship-breaking yards in the world is located in Alang, Gujarat, India, where the process begins by beaching the ship on the shore.
Ship-breaking contractors in Alang prepare a plan once the ship is beached and stabilized. Laborers then use strong chains, cables, and machinery systems to pull the vessel onto the beach, which is a dangerous task. However, in some cases, accidents and harm to the laborers may occur if chains break during the process.
Regulations exist for ship dismantling to ensure the safety of human health, the environment, and to prevent unnecessary risks. The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safety and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, adopted in 2009, aims to regulate ship-breaking procedures. However, in ship-breaking yards in developing countries, the proper adherence to these laws is often lacking, posing significant dangers to human life and the environment.
Before the dismantling process begins, fuel tanks are drained to prevent accidental explosions. Scrappers then explore the ship to locate and recover useful items such as flags, liquor, plumbing, electrical wiring, electronics, furniture, and machinery. These items are either reused or sold in the local market. Traders from different parts of the country often visit ship-breaking yards like Alang to purchase scrap and reusable items at lower prices.
After the initial scrapping process, the shipboard supervisor and authorized personnel inspect the entire ship and determine the next steps. While there are no strict guidelines on how to break a ship, experienced advisors rely on observation and project experience. However, everyone involved in the ship dismantling procedure must adhere to strict safety guidelines.
Ship dismantling businesses thrive in developing countries like Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, and India due to the availability of cheap labor. Approximately 85% of the world’s ship-breaking activities occur in these countries. The shipyards in India are particularly favorable due to high tidal ranges, 15-degree slopes, and mud-free coastlines.
Ship recycling becomes necessary as ships generally do not remain in service for more than thirty years. Additionally, recycled steel obtained from dismantled ships is beneficial for steel plants. The ship-breaking yards in Asian developing countries serve as thriving businesses.
The Basel Convention is a well-known entity involved in addressing ship disposal issues. Disposed vessels contain various hazardous substances such as PCBs, asbestos, and certain waste oil products. Recently, the Basel Convention has partnered with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ensure better compliance with rules and regulations in order to prevent irreparable harm to the environment.