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Alang loses out to Bangladesh

Alang loses out to Bangladesh

Mumbai: Alang in India's Gujarat province for so long the leading scrapper of ships in the world has seen its position slip as a rival in Bangladesh goes all out to snare any passing ageing ship. 30,000 men work around the clock on a 10-kilometre (six-mile) stretch of coastline in Sitakundu, Bangladesh.

According to the Bangladesh Ship Breakers' Association (BSBA) Sitakundu has outstripped Alang in the first half of the year. The association says demand for steel is booming in Bangladesh, due to six percent annual growth over the past four years, the biggest boom period in the country's history. Sitakundu's 22 ship-breaking yards demolished one million tonnes of steel in the year ended June 30, according to the BSBA. Once removed from the old ships, steel plates are melted down by Bangladesh's 200 small re-rolling mills and turned into steel rods.

Yard owner Alhaj Mohamed Yusuf told AFP earlier this month Sitakundu's frequent tides and low wages have made it the best place in the world to break ships. "Due to frequent tides we can beach the ship just two hundred yards (metres) from the coast," he said. "It saves us thousands of dollars for every ship we break, whereas in Alang and China they beach ships two or three kilometres out into the sea." To capitalise on the boom, he is planning to open a steel mill by the end of the year.

Unlike neighbouring India, Bangladesh has no iron ore and is dependent on imported steel -- either from scrap or more expensive billets.

Meanwhile, Alang Ship Breaking Yard, on Gujarat's Bhavnagar coast, which until 2004 could boast of being one of the biggest employers of migrant labour, has lost its men to other clusters as it lost business to Bangladesh. Over a period of four years, numbers have dwindled from 40,000 to about 5,000 migrant labourers.

Elsewhere in south Asia, the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan, Pakistan has adversely affected ship breaking activity at Gadani where the number of ships brought for scrapping during the last three months plummeted to four. Currently only one ship is being scrapped.

The situation turned ugly when Pakistan Ship Breakers Association chairman Mr Azam Malik was assassinated at Hub on May 21 this year on his way back home from his ship breaking yard at Gadani. There are 15 ship breaking yards having around 140 plots at the Gadani area but presently, it has a deserted look.

Last year, Gadani ship breaking industry scrapped about 44 vessels with a total 188,242 light displacement tonnage. However, after the May 21st 2008 tragedy buyers stopped visiting Gadani for purchasing ship plates and other scrap material. According to a PSBA spokesman there had been no import of ships and all the four vessels, which reached the Gadani yard for scrapping, were contracted prior to the killing. [28/8/08]

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