From afar, the cruise ships in these photos almost look like toys, perhaps LEGO models being taken apart for new creations. But these are not toys; they’re real cruise ships. They’re being broken down for scrap metal as yet another casualty of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has docked ships across the globe.
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These Are Not Toys, They’re Real Ships
As many of you probably know, it wasn’t always like this for cruise ships. Life pre-coronavirus, which seems like ages ago, painted a picture of a very vibrant industry (even though it’s actually rotten to its core.) According to CNN, the cruise industry had 30 million passengers in 2019. It was a $150 billion industry that employed 1.2 million people. This rosy tale of success came to a screeching halt when the coronavirus started appearing on ships and spread like wildfire.
And They’re at This Shipyard Because of the Pandemic
Some of the earliest images we have of the health apocalypse we’re currently living in are from cruises. Then there were horror stories of ships, some with and some without passengers, being stranded at sea and not being allowed to dock at their destinations. On March 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “No Sail Order” for cruise ships because of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which suspended passenger operations on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in U.S. waters.
Ships Haven’t Been Able to Sail on U.S. Waters for Months
At the end of September, the CDC extended its “No Sail Order” through Oct. 31. The agency said that cruise ship travel “continues to transmit and amplify the spread” of the coronavirus, and “would likely spread the infection into communities” if passenger operations were allowed to resume prematurely. It also highlighted the fact that cruises that have resumed operations in foreign countries have continued to have outbreaks, despite extensive safety protocols.
In Fact, They Still Can’t
The CDC reports that from March 1 through Sept. 29, there were at least 3,689 covid-19 or covid-like illnesses on cruise ships in U.S. waters, as well as at least 41 reported deaths.
What’s a Company to Do With a Luxury Cruise Ship It Can’t Send Out to Sea? Sell It for Scrap Metal
The near-global halt in operations has lead companies to tackle the difficult question of what to do with their luxury ships when hardly anyone is traveling or allowed to travel. Some have decided to sell their ships for scrap metal. Ships can cost anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion to build and typically have a lifespan of 40 years, per the Financial Times. The Times reports that selling a ship for scrap metal, which average about 25,000 metric tons without fittings, could bring in about $4 million.
That’s How These Five Ships Ended Up In This “Ship-breaking Yard”
A shipyard in Aliaga, Turkey, is making headlines for its dismantling of five luxury cruise ships. According to Reuters, the shipyard is expecting three more ships to begin to take apart. Kamil Onal, chairman of a ship recycling industrialists’ association, told the outlet that before the pandemic, Turkey’s “ship-breaking yards” tended to work with cargo and container ships.
In a Few Months, They Won’t Be Ships Anymore
Reuters reports that about 2,500 work at the Aliaga ship-breaking yard and that it can take around six months to break down a full passenger ship. Onal said the shipyard aims to increase its volume of dismantled steel from 700,000 metric tons in January to 1.1 million by the end of the year.
“We are trying to change the crisis into an opportunity,” Onal told Reuters.