Where Do Cruise Ships Go To Die? The Dismantling Process

Where do cruise ships go to die? This article explains where cruise ships get dismantled and how they get created.

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After their extraordinary lives sailing passengers all over the world for exquisite cultural experiences, decommissioned cruise ships have to say farewell, too. Where do they go to be dismantled?

Why Do Cruise Ships Get Sent to Graveyards?

Before the pandemic, cruise ships stayed in commission for a lot longer. Larger cruise companies sold their older ships to smaller cruise lines. The smaller companies would refurbish them, change their names, and continue to book cruises full of passengers, significantly extending the ships’ lifespans.

However, when the pandemic hit, the cruise industry took a substantial hit. Smaller companies no longer bought older cruise liners from the large companies because no one was cruising, so there was no way to make the money back on the investment. Larger cruise lines started sending their fleets to ship graveyards and selling their parts for scrap, as there would be no voyages for months.

Carnival Fascination Cruise Ship Before Being Scrapped
Carnival Fascination Cruise Ship Before Being Scrapped

Luckily, cruise ship travel is back, guests are happy, and the cruise industry is recovering.

Still, modern cruise ships don’t live forever. Once old cruise ships have lived out their magnificence, power tools and heavy machinery in the ship-breaking yard crunch the hotel rooms, elegant restaurants, and terraces into bits and pieces. These pieces are usually composed of electronics, glass, wood, and other repurposable materials. The components then get carted away to be repurposed.

The meticulous detail required to pull these vessels apart is staggering, from the light bulbs and their fixtures to treadmills from the gyms – and even the pianos. Thankfully, the pianos, artwork, furniture, and exercise equipment can go to worthy new homes. 

The Process of Taking Apart A Cruise Ship

The process of disassembling cruise ships necessitates thousands of skilled laborers who are familiar with cruise ship anatomy and how to organize parts of the vessel. It’s dangerous work, and with the process taking anywhere from eight months to a year, the workers do an excellent job of ensuring that there’s nothing left after the job is done.

Sovereign Cruise Ship Scrapping
Photo By: Selçuk Ateş

The first pieces of a cruise ship to be dismantled are usually the communications and navigation equipment, as these are the most valuable pieces on board. Then, the guest furniture and beds are brought out, as they can usually be repurposed. 

Where everything inside the ship goes is wide and variable, and there’s no real way of determining who collects it all. But environmentally-friendly cruise lines ensure that these materials are duly repurposed for public benefit. 

Benefits and Hazards of Shipbreaking

There are several economic benefits to dismantling cruise ships. 

One of the main benefits is the amount of steel recovered. A large part of a cruise ship is made of steel, and by recovering and reusing it, the countries where the ship breaking yards are located do not have to import steel.

Cruise Ship Scrapping
Cruise Ship Scrapping (Photo Credit: Salvacampillo / Shutterstock)

Because breaking cruise ships apart in this way allows companies to reuse and recycle many parts of the vessels, it provides a lot of raw materials that can be used to build other cruise ships. Various components, like oil, lubricants, and electrical wiring and equipment, can also be reused.

That said, there are many hazards to the death of a cruise ship. According to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and a job that not many people in the world are very familiar with. There are also significant environmental costs to consider.

Where Are Cruise Ship Scrap Yards Located?

There are ship scrap yards in various places, mostly in south Asia, but they do not all use the same methods. About half of all cruise ships go to a scrapyard in Alang, India. About 30% are sent to scrap yards in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and other scrap yards in India.

The rest go to scrap yards in China and Turkey. In addition to the one in Alang, India, some of the most prominent scrapyards are located in Gadan, Pakistan; Chittagong, Bangladesh; and Aliaga, Turkey.

Cruise Ship Scrapping
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

It’s worth pointing out that the pandemic caused a considerable uptick in the number of cruise ships sent to these scrap yards. Since the pandemic, business in the Aliaga shipbreaking yard alone is up by 30%

Ship dismantling is a long and arduous process, done almost entirely by hand with no automation, which is the primary reason shipbreaking yards are located in countries like India, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, and China. Labor costs are lower in these parts of the world, and environmental laws are not as strict.

Conclusion

Decommissioning or breaking a cruise ship requires hundreds or thousands of workers and months of work. For the ship-breaking process, ships head to a shipyard and dock.

Read Also: Cruise Ship Scrapping – Everything You Need to Know

Workers take them apart piece by piece, hauling steel and furniture, bottles of decadent liquor, and books about ancient seafaring ways off into the distance where the sun sets on the dunes of ship-going fun, leaving room for new vessels to enter the world to delight thousands more eager guests.

Emrys Thakkar
Emrys Thakkar
The founder of Cruise Hive which was established in 2008 as one of the earliest cruise blogs in the industry. Emrys has been reporting on the latest cruise industry news since the site first launched. Expert insights and tips featured on a number of publications including The Express, Business Insider, and more. Worked for Carnival Cruise Line for 8 years and is well and truly dedicated to cruising! Has also been on a number of cruises so can offer an insight into the industry that many will not be able to do. What's even more impressive is that Emrys has traveled the world by visiting more than 34 countries, lived in China for 8 years, and cruised the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. Find out more about us here.

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