The Ship Breakers

Modern steel-hulled ships are built to last for several decades at sea before repair becomes uneconomical. After their useful life is over, more than 90 percent of the world's ocean-going container ships end up on the shores of India, Pakistan, Indonesia, or Bangladesh, where labor is cheap, demand for steel is high, and environmental regulation is lax. The ships are driven right up onto shoreline lots set aside for ship breaking, then attacked by hammer and blowtorch until all usable material has been stripped away to be sold or recycled. The work is extremely difficult, low-paid workers face significant risks from the dangerous conditions and exposure to toxic materials like asbestos and heavy metals. Environmental groups have raised alarms for years over the continued release of toxins into the environment from these shipyards. Gathered here are images from several of these yards taken over the past several years. [31 photos total]

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1
A shipyard worker is enveloped in fumes coming off a separating wall he is cutting through with his blowtorch inside the hull of a ship being dismantled in one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani, some 40Kms west of Karachi, Pakistan, on July 9, 2012. Gaddani's ship-breaking yards employ some 10,000 workers including welders, cleaners, crane operators and worker supervisors. The yards are one of the largest ship-breaking operations in the world rivaling in size those located in India and Bangladesh. It takes 50 workers about three months to break down a midsize average transport sea vessel of about 40,000 tonnes. The multimillion-dollar ship-breaking industry contributes significantly to the national supply of steel to Pakistani industries. For a six-day working week of hard and often dangerous work handling asbestos, heavy metals and PCBs, employees get paid about 300 USD a month of which half is spent on food and rent for run-down rickety shacks near the yards, a labor representative told AFP. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
2
A Pakistani worker pulls on a wire he will connect to a thick chain that will in turn be used to peel away a slab of the outer structure of a beached vessel in one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani, Pakistan, on July 10, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
3
An Indian worker breaks down ship parts for recycling as scrap at a ship breaking yard in Mumbai, India, on December 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) #
4
A laborer uses a gas blow torch to separate parts of a ship into scrap metal at the Gaddani ship breaking yard in Pakistan on November 25, 2011. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro) #
5
Chittagong shipyard, Bangladesh. See it mapped. (© Google, Inc.) #
6
A laborer climbs a ladder held by others, while working onboard a ship, separating it into scrap metal at Gaddani ship breaking yard on November 24, 2011. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro) #
7
A Pakistani shipyard worker uses a blowtorch to cut through metal inside the hull of a vessel beached at one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani on July 11, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
8
A worker washes his hands in the river at a ship-breaking yard in Chittagong on August 19, 2009. Bangladesh is dependent on ship-breaking for its domestic steel requirements. The Chittagong shipbreaking yard is a highly polluted coastal belt of 20 km. The number of accidents and casualties at the yard is believed to be the highest in the region, according to environmental organizations. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj) #
9
An Indian woman pushes metal scraps across a muddy shoreline at low tide in Mumbai on December 21, 2006. The scraps salvaged from the ship repair dock are then sold to recycling companies. (Reuters/Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi) #
10
Laborers pull an iron rope before separating a portion of a ship into scrap metal at Gaddani ship breaking yard, on November 25, 2011. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro) #
11
Workers transport supplies to a ship by a makeshift cable carriage to separate it into scrap metal at the Gaddani shipbreaking yard early in the morning, on November 25, 2011. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro) #
12
In this photograph taken on July 11, 2012, Pakistani shipyard workers remove oil barrels from inside the hull of a vessel beached and being dismantled at one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
13
A worker stands at shipbreaking yard on March 22, 2010 in Cilincing, Jakarta, Indonesia. Ships are driven into the 10km beach strip here at high tide, where demolition begins for a fee usually no more than USD5 per day for the workers. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #
14
In this photograph taken on July 10, 2012, a Pakistani shipyard worker pulls on a wire attached to a motor that will help peel away part of the outer structure of a beached vessel being dismantled in one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani, Pakistan. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/GettyImages) #
15
Alang shipyard, India. See it mapped. (© Google, Inc.) #
16
Workers are seen through a cut part of a ship at a ship breaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh, on August 19, 2009. Bangladesh is dependent on ship breaking for its domestic steel requirements. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj) #
17
Workers climb to enter India's first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant to dismantle it at a ship-breaking yard in Mumbai, India, on November 22, 2014. The iconic naval vessel, that was purchased from Britain in 1957, played a key role during the India-Pakistan war of 1971 and was decommissioned in 1997. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade) #
18
Workers smoke a cigarette during a break at a ship-breaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh, on July 16, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj) #
19
Laborers stand on a makeshift cable carriage which transports them onto a ship to separate it into scrap metal at Gaddani ship breaking yard on November 24, 2011. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro) #
20
A worker smiles at a shipbreaking yard in Cilincing, Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 23, 2010. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #
21
A shipyard worker climbs down from the metal carcass of a ship at the end of his shift in one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani on July 9, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
22
Workers at a steel factory make steel rods out of cargo ship scrap on July 20, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. While the price of scrap metals has risen globally recently, workers at scrap factories in Bangladesh make an average under fifty cents and hour. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
23
A shipyard worker washes himself at the end of his shift next to one of the 127 ship-breaking plots in Gaddani on July 10, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/GettyImages) #
24
Workers rest after work at a ship breaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh, on August 19, 2009. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj) #
25
Shipyard workers work to break apart the front end of a cargo vessel beached at one of the ship-breaking plots in Gaddani on July 10, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/GettyImages) #
26
Laborers climb up an iron chain and ladder to break down a ship for scrap metal at the Gaddani ship breaking yard in Pakistan on November 24, 2011. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro) #
27
Ship breakers move barrels of oil to shore from a ship that is being dismantled for scrap in the port city of Chittagong, Bangladesh, on July 24, 2008. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
28
The skeletal remains of a ship at a shipbreaking yard in Shitakundo, some 16 kms from Chittagong, Bangladesh, on April 19, 2009. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images) #
29
Kurniah collects rust from a beach at a ship demolition site, near Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 16, 2010. Kurniah said she can earn approximately $2 after collecting about 100 kg (220 lbs) of rust a day. The rust is sold to a middleman who will sell it to a factory that will recycle it. (Reuters/Enny Nuraheni) #
30
Pakistani shipyard workers pull together on a chain helping to secure a platform in a vessel beached and being dismantled at one of the ship-breaking plots in Gaddani, Pakistan, on July 11, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
31
A Pakistani shipyard worker climbs an anchor chain securing a vessel beached and being dismantled at one of the ship-breaking plots in Gaddani on July 10, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #

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