Today most ships are built in East Asia (specifically China, South Korea, and Japan) and are broken up and devoured in South Asia (specifically India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan). The largest ship-breaking yard in the world is the Alang Ship Breaking Yard in India.

While some vessels (particularly military vessels) get sunk into artificial reefs, most are broken up and recycled for scrap. In the case of Truk (Chuuk) lagoon, a large part of the Japanese Navy was sunken by the USA, and these wrecks can be dived today.


Size of The Alang Ship Breaking Yard

There's and time and place for everything. Accordingly there comes a time for ships to die and often that place is on the beaches at Alang in India.

The Alang Ship Breaking Yard was established in 1983 and quickly grew to become the largest ship-breaking yard in the world. It soon displaced Gadani Ship Breaking Yard in Pakistan as the world's largest devourer of ships. In 2012 it was recycling around half of all the salvaged ships around the world.

Established: In 1983

Location: Alang, Gujarat in India

Alang has a total of some 183 plots (or spaces for breaking up the ships) with a total capacity of 4.5 million Light Displacement Tonnage - LDT (the weight of a vessel without fuel, etc.)

Plots: 153 Plot or Ship-Breaking yards At Alang

Length: Stretches for 10 Kilometers (6 Miles) along The Coast

The yard's quarry includes larges supertankers, car ferries, container ships, and in the past ocean liners.

These ships are beached at high tide and as the tide recedes, hundreds of manual laborers begin the dangerous and laborious task of dismantling the ship. What can be is salvaged, the rest is scrapped.

Seawise Giant: The Longest Ship Ever Built Was Broken Up At Alang In 2009

French Aircraft Carrier Clemenceau: Was Broken Up in 2005 At Alang

According to Maine Insight, "India possesses very loose marine environmental protection policies" and this likely made it easier to carry out the dangerous and unenviable task of demolishing the ships but at the same time is holding them back. They report that several beautiful corals reefs have been completely destroyed and the "marine life the affected area has gone haywire."

They also state that various toxic wastes, usable oil, poisonous gases, and even radioactive elements are stored there.

Related: Why Visiting NYC's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is A Must

Decline And Plans To Re-Grow The Alang Ship Breaking Yard

In 2021 the Indian Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the intention to double ship recycling capacity by 2024. This is to be achieved by attracting more ships from Europe and Japan.

In 2021 around 48% of the existing shipbreaking capacity of Alang was lying idle.

Since then Alang seems to have been in decline. In the year 2011-12, it had a record 415 ships and a total of 3.85 Light Displacement Tonnage (that was the only time the massive yard came close to its full capacity of 4.5 million LDT). Capacity: 4.5 Million LDTSince then it has markedly declined and in 2019-20 it only received 202 ships with a combined 1.62 million LDT, which increased a little in 2021.Even though it is only at a fraction of its capacity, there plans are to add an addition 15 plots in an attempt to ramp back up.Most of the ships that come to Alang are registered in countries that are generally considered tax havens (like St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, and Panama). According to the honorary secretary of Ship Recycling Industries Association, Europeans (the EU has some 35% of the world's merchant vessels) and the Japanese tend not to sell their old ships to Alang as they do not follow the required standards. Related: Queen Elizabeth 2 Is Now A Floating Hotel In Dubai

Other Ship Breaking Yards In The World

The next largest ship breaking yards are Chittagong ship Breaking Yard Bangladesh, Gadani Ship Breaking Yard Pakistan, and Aliaga Ship Breaking Yard Turkey. Warning! Dad Joke: What Did The Ship Breaking Yard Have For Dinner? (Fish'n Ships)Most of the old EU ships tend to go to Turkey whose ship-breaking yards are more compliant with EU regulations. In the wake of the pandemic, astonishing pictures emerged of Turkey's Aliaga Ship Breaking Yard devouring a fleet of luxury cruise ships. These aging cruise ships' final nail in their proverbial coffins was the fallout from the pandemic.Shipbreaking is not an industry limited to developing and emerging countries. There are also ship-breaking yards in high-income countries like Norway and Denmark.Shipbreaking yards are industrial work zones and not tourist destinations. But if one would like to see Alang for oneself, feel free to contact them directly and ask for a tour.Alternatively, to see an Air Force graveyard (called a "boneyard") visit the museum at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to see how military aircraft die. Next: This Is What It's Like To Visit The Queen Mary Ship (Now A Hotel And Restaurant)