More than 800 large ships are damaged every year, mostly on Asian coastlines. After decades at sea, 90 percent of the world’s container ships end up in India, Pakistan, Indonesia or Bangladesh, where labor is cheap, demand for steel is high and environmental regulations are weak.
The ships, no longer seaworthy, are taken to the shore where they are taken apart with simple tools like welders and hammers until all the reusable parts have been stripped for selling or recycling.
The ship dismantling terminal in Jakarta is one of the final resting places for damaged ships in Indonesia.
The ships are typically disassembled by a team of around 20 workers, who work from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. They are paid between Rp 80,000 (US$5.61) and Rp 190,000 per day, depending on their jobs.
The laborious job is made more difficult by the fact they only use simple equipment to avoid being exposed to hazardous materials, such as asbestos, heavy metals, oil and polychlorinated biphenyl, which is a toxic chemical that can trigger various diseases and conditions from cancer to infertility.
The Transportation Ministry’s Pollution Prevention, Ship Safety Management and Maritime Environment Protection Subdirectorate head, Jaja Suparman, said the ministry would formulate guidelines to decrease the potential risk to the worker’s safety and the environment.
On average, it takes a team of workers 30 days to dismantle a ship, with the workers collecting around 90 tons of steel, copper, zinc, bronze and machinery each day, which is then sold to recycling companies to be made into new products.