Even with the pandemic raging over a year, the ship recycling industry isn’t getting any rest. On the contrary, there’s an increase in the number of ships heading for scrap yards like Alang in Gujarat, India.
Alang had an unprecedented time teaching ship last year, having scrapped a staggering 187 vessels. However, the ship recycling yard doesn’t have that much infrastructure to tackle such an exodus of ships sent for recycling. Of the 120 working plots of the shipyard, only 90 have green recycling certificates.
In the 2021 Fiscal Year, the world’s largest ship breaking yard Alang beached 187 which is quite an increase from 202 ships in 2020.
Last year, the COVID-19 lockdown in India delayed some of the work at Alang.
The ship recyclers working here say that they have benefited from the new green recycling policies undertaken by global ship owners.
The International Maritime Organisation set a global standard for ship recycling back in 2009 by signing the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships and India joined this convention. The 90 working plots of Alang which are certified as a green recycling centre are governed by this international convention.
According to Anand Hiremath, Head, Research and Development and Lead Coordinator, Responsible Ship Recycling at Global Marketing Systems, Inc, (GMS), the world’s biggest cash buyer of ships for demolition, Alang got steady business during the pandemic because of this international certified facilities
“More than 90 green recycling facilities in Alang is the main reason for this as ship-owners with HKC compliant recycling policies for their end-of-life ships recycled their tonnage in India, as Bangladesh has only one green recycling yard and Pakistan has no green recycling yard till date,” said Anand.
“The 187 ships beached in FY21 would translate into a light displacement tonnage (LDT) of 17,60,641 compared to 16,22,800 LDT in FY20”, revealed Uday Bhatt from the Ship Recycling Industries’ Association (India).
This light tonnage refers to the equipment and machinery which can be sold for their material value and based on which ships are sold for scrapping. This includes the ship’s hull, machinery, equipment, spares and furniture.
As the lockdown happened, migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, poured-in in Alang. These workers form 80% of the people directly employed in Alang. The ship recycling yard has nearly 20,000 workers.
In the first 5 months of FY21, the industry encountered a slowdown but it gradually picked up the pace between October 2020 and January 2021.
In April and May, Alang beached 4 and 5 ships respectively. However, in October the number rose to 15 and by November it got as many as 19 ships for scrapping. In December and January, the yard scrapped 28 and 26 respectively. Things again went down in February and March when only 12 and 10 ships were recycled.
Of the 187 ships beached in FY21, 41 were containerships. This is 22% of the recycled ships. Low freight rates at the starting of the year sent containerships towards scrap yards. However, things changed quickly as a container shortage tickled the boom in container shipping rates once again.
7% of the beached ships were general cargo ships while chemical tankers and vehicle carriers made 6% each. Tugs were 5% of the beaches ships.
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