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Struggling to find ships for dismantling, Alang looks to attract European vessels

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Badly hit by decreasing number of ships, their high prices and rupee depreciation, ship breakers in Alang, one of the biggest dismantling facilities in the world, are now looking to attract European-flagged vessels.

While the Alang Shipbreaking Yard is yet to comply with the European Union (EU) regulations of handling hazardous waste, there are some big-sized plots who have become compliant.

In October, an international conference will be organized in Alang with participants being
European shipping lines, EU nations’ ambassadors and representatives of the government of India to frame strategies for attracting EU ships.

According to a rough estimate, 30% of the total ships that go for dismantling in the world are EU-flagged. If Alang yard complies with EU norms, it can attract around 80 to 100 ships per year.

Alang had the lowest tonnage of ships in decades in 2021-22 that was 14.11 light displacement tonnage (LDT), which is the weight of an empty vessel.

Vishnu Gupta, president of Ship Recycling Industrial Association (SRIA) said, “Last year, ship prices were around U $ 280 per tonne which have shot up to nearly $670 per tonne. The steel prices have dropped by 15% in the domestic market while the rupee has also depreciated four per cent.”

At present, Alang is only getting passenger ships for dismantling and no container vessels due to high freight. As international oil prices are also high, tankers are also not coming here for breaking. The Russia-Ukraine war is also one of the factors as many ships are unable to use the Black Sea route.

Haresh Parmar, a ship breaker said, “We have planned a conference in October in Alang and the shipping ministry is working on the event. We will invite 13 ambassadors of EU countries, representatives of EU ship owners associations, representatives of shipping ministry, officials of Gujarat Maritime Board and Gujarat Pollution Control Board to discuss EU requirements and other infrastructure needs in Alang.”

Mukesh Patel, another ship breaker whose plot is already complying with EU regulations said, “The small plots can’t comply with all the regulations and only big ones can do it. GMB should bring an amalgamation policy to create bigger plots that become capable of complying EU norms.”

Re-rolling industry, which is completely dependent on Alang to make steel, is facing tough times due to the prevailing situation. These units are mostly located in Sihore and they sell the recycled steel to automobile, engineering and fabrication industries. To sustain themselves, these units are now dependent on domestic and building scrap.

There are around 30 units out of the total 60 who are now buying scrap to make steel.

Haresh Dhanani, president of Sihor Re-rolling Mills Association, said, “All mills which are dependent on plates from Alang are running losses for the past two years. We can’t make TMT bars from Alang plates, so the mills are changing their machinery to use domestic scrap.”

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