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Where the voyage ends

Published Jan 06, 2013 05:30am


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It’s 10.00am. The signal bars on your cell phone screen play hide and seek, the car’s FM radio has been dead for a while with the clanging and banging on iron being the only sounds that reach your ears as you make the bumpy ride towards the shipyards in Gadani.

You suddenly swerve to one side of the road as a truck with a ship’s massive plumbing passes by you. The rusting steel is still hot and steaming from the cutting torch. From the heavy loads being carried on the roads atop trucks, the condition of the road surface is hardly a surprise.

You also cross several small wooden roadside tea stalls with workers in greasy overalls, and protective wielding goggles pulled over their heads or hanging around their necks sipping a cup of tea or a enjoying a humble meal, if the place offers that too.

The stalls are all made of wood scraps from ships. Some doors also have a pothole where there must have been a brass or aluminium window at some point in time before they were used in the stalls. An Iranian and Saudi Arabian flag laid out as shade above a bench or fluttering about on a rickety crooked pole near a tandoor are some of the other remnants put to use.

The oil and rust has turned the soil at the shipyards a deep shade of brown but the water is crystal clear with many seashells washed up on the beach. “We are not into spreading pollution. We are only into ship breaking,” says Dewan Rizwan Farooqui, chairman of the Pakistan Ship Breaker’s Association, who adds that the ships arriving at Gadani have to have a certificate saying that they are free of oil and gas from the port they were last at.

A few workers aboard immediately cut out windows from inside the vessel to allow light inside the hull.

Among the countries involved in ship breaking, Pakistan stands second only to China. It is doing far better than India, Bangladesh and Turkey. Gadani breaks some 100 ships, be they oil tankers, cargo vessels or luxury cruise liners, having spent some 20 to 25 years in service after which it is more feasible to break it down than repair it. Everything from a little nail to big metal sheets and girdles, can be sold. Thus a 20,000-tonne ship is brought down in around 90 days.

Ship breaking in Gadani began in 1973. The ship breaking industry saw its peak during the late 1980s and early 1990s in the absence of competitors such as India and Bangladesh. Today China, too, known better for building ships earlier, is breaking them. They have also made plenty of dry docks for the purpose. Meanwhile, Gadani is also more suitable for the purpose than Karachi, where the breaking was done earlier due to its sandy beaches and the water level which is deep near the beaches making it easier for the ships to float as close by as possible. In comparison the beaches in India and Bangladesh are wet and muddy.

Still the business in Pakistan experienced a nosedive between 2002 and 2007 when the international market prices were just too high. It was only in 2008 that the international costs turned around and things started looking up again.

Speaking for all the ship breakers in the country, the chairman of their association says that they pay around five billion in taxes every year but are not even provided clean drinking water, electricity or good phone service.

The steel from a ship is solid and does not readily rust after it has been sent to factories in Karachi to be re-rolled. Earlier, there were more re-rolling and melting factories in Karachi but now with the breaking down only in Gadani, more of these are coming up in Quetta and Hub besides many more in Punjab as well.

The Pakistan Steel Mill and other foundries, meanwhile, serve as their competitors as they import ore for steel which takes up a major chunk of the country’s foreign exchange.


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Comments (40) Closed

sup Jan 06, 2013 10:44am
dont know why it is...... but yes pakistanis are better destroying something than building anything new......whether its 'THE TAJ' ,worldwide peace or ship !
Kamal Hussain Jan 06, 2013 07:40am
The comments of Mr. Riaz are unnecessarily sarcastic. The ship breaking industry is one source of employment in a nation where unemployment is high. The hazardous environment can be easily changed with new laws if the government has the will.
Fuzail Z. Ahmad Jan 06, 2013 07:28am
Steel supplies from ship breaking adds a lot of value to Pakistan because of consumption surpassing production of steel from Pak Steel Mills. That's precisely why the re-rolling mills in Pakistan are doing good business. I wish the article had given figures of steel consumption and production from both PSM and re-rolling mills. Also, which industries are benefiting from locally produced steel.
Peace Lover Jan 06, 2013 07:38am
with no offence intended, why do most comments by Indian readers seem demeaning. Ship breaking is an industry and like other businesses it's there for profit and yes working conditions should be improved by outrightly saying "India thinks it's not profitable" says a lot about myopic mindset of some readers.
bhujan Jan 06, 2013 04:40pm
China is not in this business anymore. It used to be in 90s. Now only Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are the major players. India too is backing off due to health and environmental risks.
Alan Jan 07, 2013 01:06am
I hope the pakistani workers are well protected from PCBs and asbestos both causing cancer. Fair enough we want the shipping junk from all over the world but not at the expense of the labours health and well being.
ali Jan 07, 2013 12:48am
These ships are full of asbestos and other highly dangerous chemical toxic waste. Along with destroying the people that work on them and their families it will also kill and poison the marine life and effect the area for generations to come.
anil Jan 06, 2013 08:42am
Well , It's all about business . Pak needs the credit if the statistics are right . But it's good for every country to discourage such industries . It's a hardworking , minimum wage and more importantly polluting job .Gov of every country needs to divert people from this to other jobs.
Syed Jan 06, 2013 08:37am
The comments show, how big hearted our neighbours are ? Even a small positive news, which is insignificant comapred to challenges faced by Pakistan, provokes them to jump and start posting negative comments, proving india's superiority over Pakistan.
Asfandyar khan Jan 06, 2013 08:37am
Komal you are right but he was just making fun of ourself not been sarcastic..
Riaz Jan 06, 2013 07:03am
My dear sir, in Pakistan, even a child knows, we are very good at the art of breaking. We have gained 65 years of valuable experience and formidable expertise in breaking democracy, law, rules and regulations, institutions, morals and ethics, just to mention a few. Possessed with such natural talent and such varied and diverse experience in breaking, I feel extremely sad that we are second to China.
nasirdi Jan 07, 2013 12:03am
What Pak only needs now is the following; shipyards for construction, EPC-companies & refineries e.g processing plants for oil & gas-products.
Niaz Khan Jan 06, 2013 11:53pm
Yes, Bangladesh is beating India in shipbuilding. Did you know that? Which passenger ships have India made and are being exported to Europe? Please name them? Bangladesh is selling to Europe, maybe to India, too. LOL
Raoul Ciao Jan 06, 2013 08:51am
it is good to see a sensible article highlighting some positive points about pakistan and the employment and profitability a so called hazardous and labour intensive industry generates. I am sure a lot of food on tables is put due to the entrepreneurial activity of those involved, it is a good thing irrespective of whether Pakistan is at no. x in the world etc. More such articles on the positives, and please stop comparing India-pakistan in everything , dear authors! it is "OK" to write a nice article without finding the podium finish by Pakistan vis a vis India (and increasingly with bangladesh comparisons too nowdays...).
Dharan-Indian Jan 06, 2013 02:14pm
As a true Indian Expecting PAK to compete other field also with positive attitude.... want peace in south Asia.... like NATO and European Union our SAARC also should do well in International level....
Nasah (USA) Jan 06, 2013 04:06pm
How about in ship 'building'?
William Blakers Jan 06, 2013 10:58pm
I went to Gadani. Impressive to see all those men working on the ships like little ants, but they get the job done. But its not true that they do not pollute. I saw lots of oil and foam on the water and the beach.
Indian Jan 06, 2013 10:40pm Here is the link you can see India is way ahead of Pakistan, even Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan, the article is fine while comparing the author has to do some research.
ali Jan 06, 2013 09:22pm
,Gadani went down the drain when taxes were levied to such an extent at every step by the government that it was not feasible to buy scrap from Gadani after the birth of PASMIC.They wanted the re rolling to be done by PASMIC billiets but this mill was having teething problem and there was never enough raw material availabe in the market. The shortage of raw materials made the hoarders mint a lot of money.Many smaller re rolling mills closed down and labor was unemployed .NOC to import billets from overseas was denied most of the time.Pasmic has been a corrupt organization since day one.
Arif Khan Jan 06, 2013 02:52pm
Come on buddy, World Peace! TAJ? when did Pakistan destroy those? These Ships are scrap and have to be dismantled anyway.
David Jan 06, 2013 09:09pm
no need to tell, World already know in last decade how good Pakistan in supporting of destruction, wether it is ship, human life or world peace, you guys are unparalleled, hope pakistan people understand value of life and peace.
Lateef Jan 06, 2013 09:04pm
Agreed, go read Hindu.
Cool Monk Jan 06, 2013 07:04am
Yep, India prefers to make ships. Let Pakistan be No.1 in ship breaking. It's a crown India doesn't want.
Mian Mithu Jan 06, 2013 07:24pm
One cannot create the new without destroying the old.
Raj Jan 06, 2013 03:07pm
Congratulations.i mean it.just one worry. Keep environment hazard minimum and health of workers better .
Arif Khan Jan 06, 2013 02:54pm
People need to be tutored & understand that Ship Breaking is not only an Art but won through International competition, please keep your grey thinking away from such Forums.
junaid Jan 06, 2013 02:54pm
Congratulations Pakistan to be the second best country of doing and holding "TRASH" :)
KGB Jan 06, 2013 06:00pm
Why you always have to compare with India ? Please get this out of insecurity complex.
Shubs Jan 07, 2013 07:48am
I'm sorry, but pointing out how the ship breaking industry is hazardous to the environment and health and safety of the people employed in this trade is hardly a 'negative comment'. There have been prominent and loud voices in India, not least from the Environment Ministry, who want this industry strictly regulated, if not shut down completely. People are reporting what is commonly available knowledge about this industry. As far back as 2006, the Supreme Court of India refused to allow the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau to be broken up at Alang, Gujarat. Another ghost ship, the Blue Lady (formerly SS Norway) was refused entry into Alang by the Supreme Court, also in 2006. Then, of course, in 2009 there was the SS Independence which was turned away from Alang, finally getting grounded off the coast and breaking into two. It was a disaster. What one should take away from these comments from Indian readers, in my opinion, is the vocal opposition to this form of labour and work in India.
khanna Jan 06, 2013 03:26pm
I am extremely sorry being an Indian, about those demeaning comments. You are right we should mind our own business if we are really sincere towards friend ship with Pakistan. We, Indians have not achieved anything but more distance away from Pakistan during the past 60 years. The time is right and should stop these types of comments NOW.
Khan Jan 06, 2013 05:10pm
ship breaking provide mmany mechanical equipments and materials to Pakistan industries on cheap price.
Manoj Jan 06, 2013 05:44am
Ship breaking maybe a good profitable business. However, minimum working conditions should be followed so that there's no exploitation. In this cut throat business, the working conditions have always been the first casualty.
Khan Jan 06, 2013 05:07pm
yes you have a crown of being No 1 for something recently happened in Delhi!!
Talkingpoint Jan 06, 2013 05:59am
GMS weekly attributes India as the largest ship breaking / recycling country .In 2011-12 , 415 vessels were taken apart contributing to Rs.10,000 Crores ( INR 100 billion ) turnover.
Ajay Jan 06, 2013 06:09am
We don't need ship breaking in India as it is environmentally hazardous and restrictions imposed by various court rulings.You guys can win the race over :) .
Nick Jan 06, 2013 05:02pm
breaking and blowing things up doesn't need any brains. that's why the Pakistanis are good at it.
Khan Jan 06, 2013 04:58pm
Dont forget Babri masjid destroyed by indians!
IndiaUSA Jan 06, 2013 06:18am
Beaches in India are wet and muddy...India's coastline is more than 10 times that of Pakistan..the only reason India's is not investing seriously is because it is a serious health and environment hazard. Gujarat has dry beaches where ships are broken, but it is surging ahead in industries much ahead in value chain.
Guru Jan 06, 2013 06:37am
Ship breaking is a breaker of health of the workers in that industry. This has slowed down the ship breaking industry in India. Pak needs to ensure the safety of the workers, so that they do not live their later years in misery.
Shahid Ayub Jan 08, 2013 06:35am
To Indian ..... you are referring India and Bangladesh in terms of Number of ships .. but my Friend we are talking of working condition and Beach value where ship breaking is done .. I'm a ship enthusiastic and often visit Gadani Twice a week ..... My Ship Photo can be seen on by the name "primedude" . We are far better and way ahead in Ship breaking and our beached are the cleanest and you sit and enjoy bathing even the breaking