Many cities develop a reputation that, right or wrong, defines them. Indianapolis has a car race, Milwaukee has beer, New Orleans has jazz, Macau has gambling, Paris has food, Milan has style, and London is an international financial centre. Branding a city may be a good idea, as it will attract tourist and business capital from people with an interest in the cities reputation. On the other hand — some cities are not branding — they’re branded — and they’d really like to keep their reputation below the radar.
Have you ever heard of Alang, India? This small town on the west coast of India is known in the shipping industry as the ship breaking capitol of the world. Some studies conclude that over half of all word-wide ship salvage operations take place in this small town in India. The ships salvaged in Alang include ships of any class from world navies, aircraft carriers, cruise ships, oil tankers, and container ships.
Alang appeared on our radar when we were representing a client who was an Indian shipping captain. Our client was roaming the world in search of salvage ships he could navigate, or tow, to Alang — and we were helping him find ships.
Alang has a natural advantage being located in the Gulf of Cambay which is known for its high tides of around ten meters. These high tides, along with the gently sloping beach, allows ships to simply ram their hulls into the beach at high tide, leaving the ship beached at low tide, and ready to be anchored to the shore. This simple method of delivery saves the salvage crews in Alang the huge expense of building dry docks and other associated costs involved in ship salvage.
There have been many environmental issues raised about salvage practices, as well as health concerns for the salvage crews working in Alang. While changes are gradually taking place, the beaches today are literally packed with ships and the skeletons of ships awaiting dismantling by human labor.
To give an indication of how active this industry is, experts in metal prices factor in the level of activity at the Alang ship salvage yards when predicting the future price of steel — as the activity in Alang has a direct influence on the worldwide price.