The government of Japan is investing in environmental upgrades for India's Alang shipbreaking yards, which are the busiest place in the world for the dismantling of obsolete vessels. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has agreed to give a soft loan to the Indian state of Gujarat $76 million to fund a range of improvements. India's Ministry of Shipping and the government of Gujarat will provide an additional $35 million.
The Gujarat Maritime Board, which will administer the project, said in a statement that the project will help the Alang yards to comply with international regulations and to safeguard the marine and coastal environment. The Board mentioned that it would involve the use of "advanced decontamination technology" to reduce the risk of fire – a leading cause of death in shipbreaking. The board also suggested that the project could lead to a substantial increase in employment, with direct jobs rising from 50,000 to 92,000. Contract tenders are expected this month, and the project is expected to reach completion in 2022.
Safety advocacy group NGO Shipbreaking Platform contends that beaching yards in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are inherently polluting and dangerous, and that European shipowners should be required to bring their vessels to improved facilities for dismantling. Older vessels contain lead, asbestos, PCBs and other hazards, and it is difficult for shipbreakers to keep these contaminants contained on an unpaved tidal flat, the group contends. In addition, the death and injury rates at beaching yards have historically been much higher than at the better-equipped facilities in China and Turkey. The dangerous trend has not slowed: NGO Shipbreaking Platform reported four deaths and two injuries at South Asian yards in the second quarter.