Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ship-breaking Booming as Economy Worsens

Ship-breaking along the Indian coast has been increasing exponentially as the global economy has continued to decline.

"Idle ships are a huge financial burden, so ship owners don't have any option but to get rid of their ships, even if it means scrapping them years ahead of schedule," said Vishnu Kumar Gupta, joint secretary at the Alang Ship Breakers Association.

Alang has received more than 125 ships in the past three months, compared with 136 in all of 2007 and 2008, Mr. Gupta said. Ship-breakers expect the total this year to reach 250.

"In the past five to six years of the boom, very few ships were scrapped, and we were working on zero margins, as there was intense competition for the few ships that were coming in," Mr. Gupta said.

The practice of breaking down decommissioned ships can lead to a variety of occupational injuries and asbestos-related diseases. Several activist groups have been paying close to this recent increase and have been complaining that existing workplace safety regulations are becoming more relaxed as worldwide demand for scrap metal increases.

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