From earliest times, when a ship’s life was over she was recycled to recover anything that could be reused. Wooden hulls were stripped and often burned to salvage the last of the metal fittings.
At present, hundreds of ships are scrapped each year. In 2012, more than 1,000 of them made their final voyages to shipbreaking facilities that are mostly located in Asia. With ships’ average service life of 20–30 years, there will always be a generous supply of hulls for this industry.
The major countries offering shipbreaking services are, in order of volume, Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan, and Turkey. These five nations account for 85 percent of the global maritime industry’s ship recycling. Though China is a relatively new entrant into this business, its need for cheap scrap steel drives this development.
The prevailing shipbreaking technique is to run the vessels hard aground at the highest possible speed to get them as close as can be to where demolition is to take place. The best sites are where there is a very shallow beach gradient and a high tidal range.