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Ship breaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Ship breaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh

Ship breaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh

File:The Queen heeled over on the shore off the shipbreaker's yard.png

The Queen heeled over on the Thames foreshore off Rotherhithe.

Dismantling of Redoutable in Toulon, 1912

Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of a few decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair become uneconomical. Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially steel, to be recycled. Equipment on board the vessel can also be reused.

As an alternative to ship breaking, ships are also sunk to make artificial reefs after being cleaned up. Other possibilities are floating (or land-based) storage.

History and transition

Until the late 20th century, ship breaking took place in port cities of industrialized countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, ships are broken down mostly in developing countries, due to lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulations on the disposal of toxic substances such as lead paint and asbestos. Those "breakers" that still remain in the United States work primarily on government surplus vessels. Some breakers operate in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and specialize in tankers. China used to be an important player in the 1990s, but is now trying to reposition itself in more environmentally friendly industries.

Health and environmental risks

In addition to steel and other useful materials, ships (particularly older vessels) can contain many substances that are banned or considered dangerous in developed countries.[citation needed] Asbestos[1] and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are typical examples. Asbestos was used heavily in ship construction until it was finally banned in most of the developed world in the mid-1980s. Currently, the costs associated with removing asbestos, along with the potentially expensive insurance and health risks, have meant that ship breaking in most developed countries is no longer economically viable. Removing the metal for scrap can potentially cost more than the value of the scrap metal itself. In the developing world, however, shipyards can operate without the risk of personal injury lawsuits or workers' health claims, meaning many of these shipyards may operate with high health risks. Protective equipment is sometimes absent or inadequate. Dangerous vapors and fumes from burning materials can be inhaled, and dusty asbestos-laden areas are commonplace.[1]

In recent years, ship breaking has become an issue of environmental concern beyond the health of the yard workers. Many ship breaking yards operate in developing nations with lax or no environmental law, enabling large quantities of highly toxic materials to escape into the general environment and causing serious health problems among ship breakers, the local population, and wildlife.[2] Environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace have made the issue a high priority for their activities.[3]

List of ship breaking yards

The following are some of world's largest ship breaking yards:


  • Chittagong Ship Breaking yard


  • Changjiang Ship Breaking yard, located in Jiangyin, China




  • Gadani Ship Breaking yard


  • Aliaga Ship Breaking Yard

United States

  • International Shipbreaking Ltd. Brownsville, TX

Alternative definition

A ship breaker may sometimes be defined as a crewman without whom a ship cannot put to sea. For example, the Chief Engineer, Medical Officer, and Ship's Coxswain are considered ship breakers, particularly on a Navy ship.[citation needed]

See also

  • Clemenceau disposal controversy


Further reading

  • Langewiesche, William (2004). The Outlaw Sea: Chaos and Crime on the World's Oceans. London: Granta Books. ISBN 0-86547-581-4.  Contains an extensive section on the shipbreaking industry in India and Bangladesh.
  • Buxton, Ian L. (1992). Metal Industries: shipbreaking at Rosyth and Charlestown. World Ship Society. p. 104. OCLC 28508051.  Ships scrapped include Mauretania and much of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow. Ships listed with owners and dates sold.
  • Buerk, Roland (2006). Breaking Ships: How supertankers and cargo ships are dismantled on the shores of Bangladesh. Chamberlain brothers. p. 192. ISBN 1-59609-036-7.  Breaking Ships follows the demise of the Asian Tiger, a ship destroyed at one of the twenty ship-breaking yards along the beaches of Chittagong. BBC Bangladesh correspondent Roland Buerk takes us through the process-from beaching the vessel to its final dissemination, from wealthy shipyard owners to poverty-stricken ship cutters, and from the economic benefits for Bangladesh to the pollution of its once pristine beaches and shorelines.
  • Siddiquee, N.A. 2004. Impact of ship breaking on marine fish diversity of the Bay of Bengal.DFID SUFER Project, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 46 pp.
  • Siddiquee, N. A., Parween, S., and Quddus, M. M. A., Barua, P., 2009 ‘Heavy Metal Pollution in sediments at ship breaking area of Bangladesh ‘Asian Journal of Water, Environment and Pollution, 6 (3) : 7-12

External links

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