Pakistan’s Gadani ship-breaking yard is one of the world's largest ship breaking operations. The yard is located on a 10 km stretch of beach at Gadani, about 50 kilometres northwest of Karachi. Ship breaking in some shape or form has been taking place on Gadani beach since before Pakistan’s independence.
Gadani currently has an annual capacity of breaking over a hundred ships of all sizes, including supertankers and large cargo-ships.
During the 1970’s and 80’s ship breaking peaked as an industry here in Pakistan, and Gadani was for a time, the largest breaking yard in the world.
Today in Pakistan, ship breaking provides a sizeable amount of the steel that is required for various development and industries. The steel is stripped from ships systematically after they arrive on shore, and then it is sent off to be further processed.
Dawn.com took a short tour of these yards and the steel-related factories that surround them. We were guided and informed about the various activities by a local industry insider, Usman Iqbal, who manages the activities of a rolling mill near Gadani. – Photos by Nadir Siddiqui/Dawn.com and Fehd Siddique
A hulking oil tanker stands with its bow removed on Gadani beach.
This particular ship had 54,000 tons of steel. A ship this big takes around 4 - 5 months to be completely broken down.
A ship of this size costs around 250 crore rupees, ($30 million). Usually to acquire such a big ship, a bank or even a number of banks have to be involved in the transaction. The bank pledges to the seller by giving a bank guarantee; the buyer then repays the seller and the bank by selling the harvested steel over the time period.
Ship breaking is a complicated process. The ship is dragged in from its anchorage in the sea by tug boats. It is then hauled onto the beach by very powerful winches and cranes. Then all the removable cargo from the ship is removed after which the ship is cut with special cutting tools that use liquid oxygen. The ship must be cut in such a way that it stays balanced and upright on the shore.
The amount of labour force employed depends on the size of the vessel. Around 200 men were working on this particular ship. They use gas cutters, various kinds of cranes and winches, fork lifts, high powered motors, trucks and other tools and support machinery.
Apart from any cargo that is on the vessel, other items that are removed include the ships navigation machinery and equipment, high performance computers, electric cables, motors, compressors, storage tanks, communication equipment, generators, tools and machines, safety clothing and equipment, fire fighting and controlling material, big ropes and hauling machinery, plastic drums, plastic pipes and numerous other things.
A pair of thick protective gloves lies on the sand covered in grease. In this particular ship 11 000 tons of grease were also present in the cargo.
A continuous casting furnace is fueled by a worker in a billet making factory. The factory uses scrap metal and turns them into billets. The furnace needs to be heated to 1700 C in order to melt the steel.
The workers also add other elements to the steel to give it different properties. Here they are adding manganese to increase the magnesium content of the billets produced.
The molten steel being poured into moulds where it will be cooled into billet form.
A small sample of the steel from each batch in the furnace is analysed by a mass spectrometer (not pictured) in the factory's lab. The spectrometer detects the chemical content of the mixture in the steel. If any required element is not in its correct proportion, it is added to the molten mixture inside the furnace (as seen with magnesium in the earlier photo).
Molten steel being poured into the mould. This is where the cooling process starts.
Billets are classified as semi-finished products. They are further processed via rolling and drawing. Final products include reinforcement bars (deformed bars or 'sirya?), wire rod, angles, girders and shafts.
A worker watches from one of the control rooms at a rolling mill. At the moment reinforcement bars or 'sirya? are being manufactured from the billets that were made in billet factories. The billets are heated to 900 C to make them red hot so they can be moulded into reinforcement bars.
The process of making billets involves a complex mechanical, electrical, pneumatic and electronic system which is integrated to produce the reinforcement bars efficiently. Here water is being used to cool the finished product.