Photos of abandoned, stripped cruise ships show how deeply the cruise industry is sinking

Ship breaking cruise ships turkey

  • Photos of unused cruise ships getting stripped for parts show how the cruise industry is struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Maintaining cruise ships that aren't in use is very expensive, so many cruise companies are selling part of their fleet for scrap.
  • Since the pandemic hit, the number of cruise ships being dismantled for scrap has increased. 
  • Because many shipyards had to close due to lockdowns, there's a waiting list for cruise ships to get dismantled around the world.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The travel industry is hurting as the coronavirus pandemic ravages on, but the US cruise industry, in particular, has been hard hit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a no-sail order in March, which it changed to a "conditional sailing" one on November 1. This means that cruises could accept passengers, but only after making significant changes to their health and safety protocols. Most cruise companies voluntarily renewed the no-sail order through 2020 as they figure out these new measures.

Ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world's largest cruise industry trade association, which represents 95% of the global cruising industry, projected that 32 million passengers would set sail in 2020 and that the industry was creating an economic impact of $53 billion in the US, and $150 billion worldwide.

The CLIA now estimates that "each day of the suspension of cruise operations in the US results in a total loss of approximately $110 million in economic activity and up to 800 American jobs."

For the shipbreaking industry, however, this means big business.

Photos of cruise ships being dismantled into scrap metal at bustling shipbreaking yards around the world illustrate just how deeply the cruise industry is hurting right now.

Photos of unused cruise ships getting stripped for parts show just how much the cruise industry is struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nicola Mulinaris, the communication and policy officer at NGO Shipbreaking Platform, told Insider that they've seen an increase in the number of cruise ships getting scrapped since the pandemic hit.

Source: NGO Shipbreaking Platform

He explained that cruise ships can be "extremely costly to maintain if they're not operational."

Consequently, cruise companies, many facing financial troubles, are downsizing their fleets.

Source: WESH

Carnival lost $2.9 billion last quarter, the New York Times reports. It has canceled trips into 2021 and is cutting 18 of its ships, per Good Morning America.

Source: The New York Times, Good Morning America

Three of those ships, the Inspiration, Imagination, and Fantasy, are being dismantled at the Aliaga Ship Recycling Facility in Turkey, alongside two other cruise ships.

Almost 2,000 people are working to dismantle the five ships in Turkey, according to the New York Times.

Source: The New York Times

Mulinaris said that because many shipyards had to close due to lockdowns, there's even a waiting list for cruise ships to get dismantled around the world.

In the past, cruise companies sold their ships to smaller companies, but because of the pandemic, no one can afford to buy them — nor would they want to.

Cruise companies are also afraid of strengthening the competition, said Mulinaris, "so it becomes quite appealing to recycle the vessels and get money out of it."

Generally speaking, cruise ships will sell their ships to scrap dealers through a broker. These will then pay the shipyards for their work, and make money selling scraps.

According to Mulinaris, 90% of a conventional vessel is steel, which is recyclable. But machinery and furniture can also be sold.

"It's a treasure chest in there," an antique store owner told the New York Times about cruise ship interiors. "These are not regular ships; they are luxurious floating museums with many precious items inside."

Source: The New York Times

Depending on where the ships are sold and scrapped, cruise ship companies could be paid between $150 to $400 per ton.

Carnival sent its ships to get scrapped in Turkey: While the prices there per ton are on the low end, according to Mulinaris, the working conditions are better and the recycling process more environmentally friendly.

A cruise ship can take up to 10 months to dismantle, but it depends on both the vessel and the shipyard.

"Everything is taken out piece by piece, from the light bulb to the piano and swimming pool to the golf course," Kamil Onal, chairman of the Ship Recyclers' Association of Turkey, told the New York Times.

Source: The New York Times

Usually, ships are cleaned, stripped of anything that can be sold, then cut into small blocks, taking care to avoid hazardous materials. These pieces are then usually lifted away by crane, one by one.

Sometimes they are carried away by hand.

Shipbreaking is dangerous work.

Besides the obvious risks of sustaining injuries from operating heavy machinery, getting crushed, or falling, ships are also filled with flammable gases that can cause explosions and toxic elements like asbestos and lead.

According to data by NGO Shipbreaking Platform, there have been 397 deaths inshipbreaking yards since 2009.

Source: Off the Beach

Shipbreaking is also bad for the environment. As it can be difficult to contain pollutants, oil spills, sludge, and heavy metal, contaminated debris are common side effects.

Governments and organizations such as Mulinaris' NGO are working hard to improve working conditions for shipbreakers and to ensure more environmentally sound practices.

Cruise companies are working to turn things around, however, and are working to get passengers on the ocean as soon as safely possible with measures like mock cruises to test safety measures.

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