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Photo Essay : Where Ships Go to Die

July 13, 1993|JEAN-MARC GIBOUX | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The beach at Alang, on the west coast of India about 30 miles south of Bhavnagar, is a huge and eerie scrap yard--the leading shipwrecking yard in the world. At any time, more than 100 of the world's discarded ships can be seen in various stages of dismemberment along the three-mile stretch of sand sheltering more than 80 scrap metal recycling companies.

Workers come by the thousands from all over India to work in Alang, where a flat coastline and low tides provide an ideal workplace. The labor is grueling and dangerous. They work 70 hours a week, in temperatures that reach 110 degrees in the shade, attacking giant tankers with acetylene torches and carrying away loads of steel on their shoulders.

It is the ultimate recycling plant. A tanker will disappear completely within three to four months. The scrap metal is sold to steel plants and small foundries throughout India. Last year, the shipwrecking yard yielded more than half a million tons of metal--about 60% of the world's ship scrap.

But for the visitor, Alang is like a post-apocalyptic scene of destruction, fire and smoke--a place where the Third and First Worlds meet.

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