The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

End of the Exxon Valdez

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 11, 2013

The infamous oil tanker Exxon Valdez is currently being dismantled on a beach in the Indian coastal city of Alang.

Like ants devouring a dead insect, ship-breakers use gas-torches to cut apart the 34,000-ton steel giant where the scrap is sold to Indian steel-mills.

In about a month, there will be nothing left of the former oil tanker, which in 1989 was responsible for the largest oil spill ever in the United States, leaking more than 41 million liters (10.8 million gallons) of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound.

After the accident, the Exxon Valdez was converted into an ore carrier.

The Indian scrap yard and salvage company bought the Valdez for USD $16 million for the scrap value of the steel.

The ship was then grounded at high tide on the beach at Alang and more than 300 workers are being paid a few rupees a day to dismantle the vessel.

Although the Valdez contains no more toxic materials than other ships, environmentalists took advantage of the former tanker's prominence to raise their profile by trying to block its import into India.

Although the greens were unsuccessful, they at least brought attention to the unsafe conditions for many low-wage earners at scrap yards in India.

In October 2012, for example, six workers died in a fire in Alang as they were dismantling the oil tanker Union Brave on the beach.

And in Alang alone, 173 workers have died in ship scrapping yards since 2001.

But business is booming for the "iron eaters," as the scrappers are called, and not just in India.

Over 1,000 ships were scrapped worldwide in 2012.

India accounted for the largest number, 527, followed by Bangladesh, Pakistan and China where the steel is a very valuable resource.

The high-quality steel used to make the sips is in great demand and the scrapping companies pay about $400 per ton for ships.

Recycling ships currently satisfies 9 percent of India's demand for steel.

And the Chinese are now vigorously establishing scrapping operations.

China's scrappers need  ships badly. They have invested a lot of money in new facilities and, now that the price of steel in the country is falling, they have to fight for every ship.

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