Ship graveyards: Where do ships go when they die?

Ship graveyards: Where do ships go when they die?

As our new ships special demonstrates, the cruise industry is fast expanding, with dozens of ships launching each year. Some lines – such as Royal Caribbean International – are not simply expanding to get more customers on board, but to innovate. Its newest ships are not only its biggest, but boast cutting-edge technology, new features and restaurants, meaning the older ships can feel like different lines all together. It’s one of the reasons that line in particular so often retires and transfers its ships – with lines such as Thomson Cruises and Pullmantur operating its older vessels.

But while these still-excellent ships are put to good use and are beloved by cruise passengers and ship enthusiasts, there are others that are perceived to have gone beyond their sell-by date, often when vitally needed repairs become too expensive or difficult to carry out. Song of Norway, Royal Caribbean’s first-ever ship, for example, was built in 1970 and stayed with the line until 1997 when it was sold to Sun Cruises, and then on again a few years later. In April 2012, following a series of technical problems, it was sold to China and used as a floating casino. Just a year later, however, it was sold for scrap in 2014.

Ship breaking – as this is known – is a fate suffered by many ships. Nordic Prince, Royal Caribbean’s second ship (built in 1971), ended its life in Alang, India, home to one of the world’s largest ship graveyards (pictured above). According to the journalist William Langewiesche, it is “a six-mile stretch of oily, smoky beach [where] 40,000 men tear apart half of the world’s discarded ships” – a strange end to these once majestic vessels.

Some ships, however, are simply left to rot. The most infamous example is of Queen Elizabeth 2, Cunard’s flagship for 40 years, which now lies derelict after plans to turn it into a luxury hotel stalled. Dubai World docks paid $100m to Cunard to acquire the vessel in 2007, but it now lays “filthy, forlorn and neglected”, as a campaigner put it to The Telegraph, in Port Rashid. Images from inside the ship show it in a dreadful state, in part thanks to the humid climate, with mould climbing its stateroom walls, and mountains of rubbish cluttering up its corridors. London Major Boris Johnson started an improbable campaign to get the ship, which was named by the Queen in 1967, back “home” in the English capital.

In October 2015, the vessel was moved a short distance for the first time in two years, its engines having been previously turned off – yet its future remains unclear. Dubai World to did not respond to Cruise Adviser’s request for comment.

(Image: Google Map Data 2016)

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