Beaches at Alang in India, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Gadani in Pakistan and Aliağa in Turkey aren’t top holiday destinations. They’re world’s top ship graveyards.
After a lifespan of a few decades and hard use, a worn down ship will make its last trip to one of these beaches in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Turkey. It’ll be demolished and broken for lucrative recycling – a ship may not be sea worthy anymore but it’s definitely a few million dollars worthy as scrap metal.
No trained workers and no advanced tools will be used to take the ship down. Low-labor-cost local people, very often children, will use blowtorches, hammers and axes to tear down a ship that, on average, is 1180 feet (360 meters) long and weighs 160 metric tons. Very often, they won’t wear protective gear and will inhale dangerous vapors and fumes from materials including asbestos polychlorinated biphenyls.
BBC’s Simon Reeve reported from the second world’s biggest ship breaking (or demolition) yard in Bangladesh that, on average, eight people die there every month. Crushed under heavy metal falling on top of them. Suffocated inside a gas chamber.
Filming on any of the beaches isn’t allowed and reporters need to get creative to get the footage. When they do, pictures are indeed spectacular, but not in a pretty way. Corroding skeletons of giant ships dumped on the beachfront, with huge chunks ripped off them. Black oil floating on the water surface.
Wastes of the scrapped ships, especially oil and oils substances as well as different types of metal, are being accumulated and heavily contaminate the coastal soil and seawater environment of the biggest ship graveyard beaches in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey.
There’s a reason why these four places are the biggest ship breaking yards in the world. Costs of removing the metal for scrap are cut down by using low-cost-labor without appropriate protection and tools. Negligent or lack of environmental laws don’t require appropriate disposal of large quantities of highly toxic materials – surely, it’s not Green Ship Recycling as in some other ports; industrialized ports.
But these other Green Ship Recycling ports are far from being the biggest, the dirtiest, the most hazardous, the most dangerous, the most exploitative, and the most profitable ship breaking yards in the world.