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Just sounds of waves breaking at Alang ship-breaking yard

Chittagong in Bangladesh and Alang in Gujarat are global leaders in the marine salvage industry, with the Indian facility having a clear edge over its eastern rival – both by way of the number of ships received and the quantum of steel recovered from the dismantling.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 04, 2020, 07.46 AM IST
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Chittagong in Bangladesh and Alang in Gujarat are global leaders in the marine salvage industry, with the Indian facility having a clear edge over its eastern rival.
Just north of the Tropic of Cancer, on either side of its main coastline, the Indian subcontinent hosts two marine salvage hubs – about 2,500 kilometres apart - where three out of five sea-going vessels on the planet find their final resting place. The facility on the western water margin, at Alang in Gujarat, has fallen deafeningly silent, with only the sound of gentle waves on the shores breaking the stillness of the beachside maritime graveyard.

Chittagong in Bangladesh and Alang in Gujarat are global leaders in the marine salvage industry, with the Indian facility having a clear edge over its eastern rival – both by way of the number of ships received and the quantum of steel recovered from the dismantling.

But since early March, even before New Delhi enforced a lockdown across the country, Alang hasn’t heard the last of the foghorn blasts from ships ending active deployment.

“We used to receive one ship a day and recycle around 350-360 ships a year, but for the past 20 days, we didn’t receive a single ship. This isn’t normal and we know it’s going to be a bloodbath,” said Haresh Parmar, a ship-breaker at Alang and joint secretary of the Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA).

Ship breaking activity in Alang has around 100+ units operating along the coastline. As per the industry communication platform Alang Info, the yard not only supplies scrapped steel but is also involved in other businesses, such as selling used ship machinery and equipment from the demolished vessels.

“Considering the current situation, the supply has come to a standstill. Demand, hence, is affected and so the impact is definitely huge,” said Parmar.

As the industry is labour intensive, after the lockdown, workers and labourers, are confined to their shanties without any job or pay.

The shipping ministry had sent several circulars, including one in February that barred ships touching the ports of China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Italy and Iran from entering Indian waters. The rules became even stricter in March following the lockdown circular, said Parmar.

“We only handle imported ships. All the projects are disrupted as none of the crew members from other countries were ready to travel,” Parmar said.

About 30% of the scrapped steel from Alang goes to the secondary steel re-rollers in Gujarat, and 30% to the electric arc furnaces and steel mills in Ahmedabad. The rest is supplied all across India. Demand looks bleak and it will take a lot of time to revive, said Parmar.

“We have shutdown completely and stopped ordering any scrap metals,” said Vivek Adduce, Chairman, Steel Re-Rolling Mills Association of India.

A Delhi-based steel re-rolling mill, which purchases scrap from Alang, said that it has cancelled several projects and has shut operations until the end of April.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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