Commerce of the Seas – Lessons from Alang (India)

Go Lean Commentary

Despite our beautiful vistas in the Caribbean – with our sun, sand and sea – not everywhere is paradisiac. Some locations are just plain ordinary, or even Less-Than. Tourism is the region’s Number 1 economic activity, but there are certain areas where tourists should not venture. This is true for agricultural areas and certain industrial zones.

The movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean wants to add another type of “not for tourists” industrial zone to the Caribbean landscape: Ship-breaking Yards.

Just that combination of words – “Ship” + “Breaking” – connotes some negative images. The lessons we learned from the Indian port city of Alang is that Ship-breaking is dirty; see the encyclopedic reference here:

Reference Title: Alang,  Indian State of Gujarat. 

CU Blog - Commerce of the Seas - Lessons from Alang - Photo 5Alang is a census town in Bhavnagar district in the Indian state of Gujarat. In the past three decades, its beaches have become a major worldwide centre for ship breaking. The longest ship ever built, Seawise Giant, was sailed to and beached here for demolition in December 2009. [1]

Marine salvage industry
The shipyards at Alang recycle approximately half of all ships salvaged around the world.[2] It is considered the world’s largest graveyard of ships.[3] The yards are located on the Gulf of Khambat, 50 km (31 mi) southeast of Bhavnagar. Large supertankerscar ferriescontainer ships, and a dwindling number of ocean liners are beached during high tide, and as the tide recedes, hundreds of manual laborers move onto the beach to dismantle each ship, salvaging what they can and reducing the rest to scrap.

The salvage yards at Alang have generated controversy about working conditions, workers’ living conditions, and the impact on the environment. One major problem is that despite many serious work-related injuries, the nearest full service hospital is 50 km (31 mi) away in Bhavnagar.

Alang - Photo 1

Alang - Photo 2

Alang - Photo 4

Japan and the Gujarat government have joined hands to upgrade the existing Alang shipyard. The two parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which focuses on technology transfer and financial assistance from Japan to assist in the upgrading of operations at Alang to meet international standards. This is a part of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, a larger partnership between the Japanese and Gujarat government. Under this plan, Japan will address the environmental implications of ship breaking in Alang, and will develop a .marketing strategy. The project is to be carried out as a public-private partnership. The project’s aim is to make this shipyard the largest International Maritime Organisation-compliant ship recycling yard in the world.

Source: Retrieved June 8, 2017 from:

The dirty nature of these industrial endeavors, as depicted in Alang, provides a negative lesson that we want to learn from to avoid all perilous consequences of doing this business in a “wrong” manner.

Another lesson we learn from Alang is that Ship-breaking work (jobs) is consistent and steady. There are many ships that have lived out their usefulness and now need to be dismantled for scrap; the more labor available, the more ships to break. This is such a positive lesson for us to learn right now, as the Caribbean region is badly in need of jobs. The economic engine involves salvaging the scrap metal (and other materials) for recycling.

The challenge is to embrace the commerce of Ship-breaking for the positives, while avoiding the negatives.

Challenge accepted! (The foregoing relates the welcoming support from Japan for clean ship-breaking).

The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This would be the governmental entity for a regional Single Market that covers the land territories of the 30 member-states, and their aligning seas; (including the 1,063,000 square miles of the Caribbean Sea). The Go Lean/CU roadmap features this prime directive, as defined by these 3 statements:

  • Optimization of the economic engines to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect public safety and ensure the economic engines of the region, including the seas.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines in local governments and in Self-Governing Entities, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

This commentary posits that there are opportunities for the Caribbean to better explore the “Commerce of the Seas”, to deploy International Maritime Organisation-compliant shipyards. There are so many lessons that we can learn from the Economic History of other communities’ exploitation of the high seas. This commentary is 4 of 4 in a series considering the Lessons in Economic History related to “Commerce of the Seas”. The full series is as follows:

  1. Commerce of the Seas – Stupidity of the Jones Act
  2. Commerce of the Seas – Book Review: ‘Sea Power’
  3. Commerce of the Seas – Shipbuilding Model of Ingalls
  4. Commerce of the Seas – Lessons from Alang (India)

The reference to “Commerce” refers to the economic interest of the 30 member-states in the Caribbean region. There is the need for more commercial opportunities that would impact the community with job and entrepreneurial empowerments. Ship-breaking could be providential!

Ship-breaking can provide high tech, mid tech and low tech jobs; especially if the salvage operation is executed in a technocratic manner. The Art & Science of technocratic ship-breaking versus dirty-breaking (i.e. Alang) was previously detailed in a blog-commentary on August 14, 2014. See some highlights from that blog in the excerpt here:

… ship-breaking activities in Third World countries, like Bangladesh, pose harm to the environment, workers and remaining systems of commerce. But when executed correctly, as in Brownsville-Texas, ship-breaking can be all positive. There are benefits in applying the appropriate best practices in handling hazardous materials. The tons of toxic waste (asbestos) can be properly managed and disposed of, with the proper eco-system surrounding the industry. The CU will facilitate the eco-system, especially with the Self-Governing Entities (SGE) concept for shipyards. This is covered in the Go Lean book under the auspices of “turn-around” industries, a federally regulated/promoted activity.

So there is a way to perform ship-breaking – one expression of maritime commerce – in a lean, clean manner while guaranteeing safety for the workers and profit for the investors.

This is the win-win … of the Go Lean roadmap.

The Go Lean book/roadmap was published in November 2013 with a vision for a new industrialization for the region. The quest is for the region to cooperate, collaborate and convene so as to accomplish more as a unified Single Market than may be possible alone. Not one of the Caribbean member-states – all Third World – can do ship-breaking right. It would quickly denigrate to the Alang and Bangladesh models. But together, leveraging the interdependence – so much more can be accomplished. This was the vision of the opening Declaration of Interdependence in the book. Here, the need for regional coordination and integration was pronounced as the basis of reforming and transforming Caribbean society.

See a sample of relevant stanzas from the Declaration here (Page 11 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xxvi. Whereas the Caribbean region must have new jobs to empower the engines of the economy and create the income sources for prosperity, and encourage the next generation to forge their dreams right at home, the Federation must therefore foster the development of new industries, like that of ship-building…. In addition, the Federation must invigorate the enterprises related to existing industries like … fisheries … – impacting the region with more jobs.

Reforming and transforming the Caribbean is the quest. The Go Lean book explains “how”, providing 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos for economic regionalism, and “how” to execute the right strategies, tactics, and implementations to reboot, reform and transform the maritime commerce to benefit Caribbean society.

The issue of fostering industrial developments in the Art-and-Science of the salvage industry has been a frequent subject for previous blog-commentaries; consider this list of sample entries: Lessons Learned: Detroit demolishes thousands of structures A Lesson in ‘Garbage’ Funding Caribbean Entrepreneurs – The ‘Crowdfunding’ Way Where the Jobs Are – Entrepreneurism in Junk

All Caribbean member-states are islands or coastal territories – they can all be candidates for maritime salvaging (ship-breaking) operations – even all at the same time. While there is a large footprint of “cheap” ship-breakers in Asia, not as many proliferate in the Western Hemisphere. It is a perfect time to explore these opportunities.

This is not tourism! Ship-breaking activities are not paradisiac nor inviting so they should be limited to shipyards, not beaches.

Alang - Photo 3Imagine: towing an old ship from the Americas to the Caribbean, rather than across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans; see the experience of salvaging the “Love Boat” in the Appendix VIDEO below.

This is commerce!

There is a need to transform maritime commerce for the Caribbean region; we can get more economic activity from this sector; the Go Lean book projects 15,000 new direct jobs in the shipbuilding and/or ship-breaking activities. The possibility of these new jobs is hope-inspiring. At last we can arrest the societal abandonment where men and women leave the community looking for any kind of work.

This is Commerce of the Seas; we saw how previous generations of Caribbean people lived off the sea; we can again, with these creative expressions of maritime commerce.

This plan is conceivable, believable and achievable. We urge all Caribbean stakeholders – governments, business owners and workers – to lean-in to this roadmap for economic empowerment. We can make the Caribbean homeland and seas better places to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the free e-book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix VIDEO – The End of The Love Boat –

Published on Nov 5, 2016English Captions Available!!!
MS Pacific Princess is a voyage send possessed by Princess Cruises and worked by Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia. She was inherent 1999 by the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France as MS R Three for Renaissance Cruises.

The vessel initially entered operation in 1999, with Renaissance Cruises. The ship was not claimed by the organization, ownership rather living with a gathering of French speculators, who rented the ship to the organization. In late 2001, the whole Renaissance armada was seized by lenders.

Pacific Princess in Yalta inlet.

In late 2002, Princess Cruises sanctioned the R Three, alongside sister transport R Four (now Ocean Princess). Both vessels entered operation before the end of 2002. The contract ended toward the end of 2004, at which time both vessels were acquired by Princess Cruises. Gabi Hollows renamed the ship Pacific Princess in Sydney on 8 December 2002.
This ship has been the subject of a state help choice by the European Commission: Decision 2006/219.

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Additional VIDEO – Jobs of Workers in Ship-breaking Industry –

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