The death of a ship

Have you ever wondered what happens to large commercial ships once they’ve become too old to operate? Unlike the Navy (who likes to sink their ships to make artificial reefs), commercial ships are usually sold for scrap. When this happens, the ships make their way to places like Alang, India.

In Alang, ships meet their doom when they are beached. When the ship is emptied of cargo and important equipment, the vessel is placed on a direct course for the beach while at high tide. Once ashore, the workers at Alang dismantle the ship to recycle all the steel and other valuable materials for scrap.

While the operation is very efficient, the Red Cross and environmentalists around the world complain about the ship breaking practices there in Alang. For starter, there is no full-service hospital within 30 miles from the beach (though the Red Cross operates a medical response facility there). Secondly, while these ships are empty of cargo and supplies, pollutants still find their way into the shores as the ships are taken apart.

Despite the current issues surrounding the town and the practice, it is an impressive operation. Below are three items that demonstrate the process and scale of the operations in Alang. The first is an aerial view of the Alang ship-breaking facility. In this photo, you can see at least 70 vessels that are currently beached.

The second is a video of a ship that is being beached. As you can see from the video, the vessel is empty, with the bulbus bow of the vessel riding high out of the water.

Lastly, here is a close-up aerial shot of one of the ships that has already been partially stripped down.

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