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.
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.