Shipwreck and workers at a shipbreaking yard, Wikimedia Commons
With India facing the wrath of the second wave of COVID infections, an unusual victim lies in the shadows: the shipbreaking industry. To unravel the reason, let’s explore a bit of the back story.

Located on India’s Western Coast in the state of Gujarat, Alang is the world’s largest shipbreaking yard. Gujarat has been one of the worst affected states in the country, recording an all-time highest of 10,000 fresh COVID infections on the day this article is being written.

So what happens when you get thousands of fresh new COVID infections in your state? You need to redirect your entire oxygen supply to hospitals. That is precisely what the regional government did.

On account of industrial oxygen being redirected, Alang’s shipbreaking yards cannot fire up the gas torches used for cutting down ships. As a result, all ship-breaking activity has come to a grinding halt for the last couple of days.

For cutting chunks of iron and steel, workers use oxygen fuel torches. Propane, Butane, and natural gas are used along with liquefied or compressed oxygen that acts as an oxidizer.

Speaking to Indian Express, Haresh Parmar, a shipbreaker at Alang and honorary joint secretary, Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA) said, “Not a single tonne of gas is coming to Alang. Everything has been diverted for medical use for the last couple of days. Ship-breaking at almost all the plots has stopped completely.”

On a day-to-day basis, Alang uses up 70-100 tonnes of oxygen. With the current shortage in oxygen supply, only those shipbreakers who stockpiled liquid oxygen in advance are currently operating.

Parmar added, “We will be clocking huge losses because of this shutdown at Alang. However, we feel this oxygen is needed in the hospitals. Our association feels that the oxygen should be given where it is most needed now. Business considerations cannot be bigger than saving lives.”

Posted in General by Ankur Kundu on Apr 20, 2021 at 09:39