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WATCH: Ever Wondered How $300 Million Cruise Ships Are Demolished?

If you have ever wondered what happens to cruise ships at end-of-life, here’s your answer…

Cruise ship-breaking environment
Photo Credit: Business Insider / YouTube

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to cruise ships at end-of-life, here’s your answer…

Let’s face it, 2020–2021 hasn’t exactly been cruise ship season. The modern cruise ship is essentially a small city on the seas, with populations as large as 5,000.

With the risk of coronavirus outbreaks infecting multinational passengers, cruises have simply been out of the question over the past year. Inevitably, the cruise ship industry has taken a heavy blow.

Carnival Cruise Line has since sold six of their ships that would otherwise have had another five to ten years left in them. The company is looking to cut costs as COVID-19 ravages the cruise industry, and selling ships for scrap is the most profitable answer.

At the Aliaga ship-breaking yard in Turkey, Carnival’s Fantasy, Imagination, and Inspiration ships are in the process of being demolished. Workers are cutting apart and recycling every piece of these huge ships with safety and environmental safeguards at the forefront of operations.

Demolishing ships safety

Ship-breaking is the most dangerous profession in the world according to the International Labour Organization.Workers tackle exposure to toxic gases, working at height on unstable platforms, fire hazards, as well as the risk of being hit by falling objects.

In fact, two workers have been killed in the shipyard since October 2020, within the space of four months, due to falling objects.

Due to the vessel being stripped lying on water, ambulances often cannot reach any injured employees.

Yet Aliaga offers one of the best working conditions compared to ship-breaking yards worldwide.

Sites in South Asia, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have been described as ‘death traps’, dozens of people dying and many more sustaining serious injuries during the course of work.

As opposed to using the gravity method of demolishing ships, Aliaga uses a giant crane to disassemble vessels piece-by-piece, comply with EU ship-breaking regulations.

Protecting the environment

Compliance with EU standards has meant that the Aliaga ship-breaking yard is able to limit toxic materials from cruise ships being released into soil or the sea. Dangerous substances include asbestos in pipes, heavy metals in paints, biological hazards from sewage tanks, and even radioactive material from gages.

This way, local marine habitats can be preserved and protected from the usual pollution and ecological disturbances caused by the ship-breaking industry.

Furthermore, the EU regulations meant that Aliaga installed drainage systems, cement floors and oil booms, waste management system, and an asbestos removal process.

Recycling materials

Whilst the dangers of the ship-breaking industry to both human and environmental health are most obvious, it is easy to forget the good they do too.

Iron and steel recovered in Aliaga are sent to Yenifoca to be recycled into usable materials for the construction industry.

It is estimated that in 2020 alone, the site savaged 1 million metric tons of steel from cruise ships. Recycling steel reduced the need to mine for raw materials – an unsustainable practice that requires large energy and an even larger carbon footprint.

If you thought the ship-breaking industry was a prickly subject, check out how the underground Cactus market is risking hundreds of endangered species.


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