14 February 2013

Alang Ship Recycling Yard turns into an unlikely shopping destination for bargain hunters and collectors

The 50-km drive from the district centre of Bhavnagar to the maritime graveyard at the AlangSosiya Ship Recycling Yard is bumpy and unpleasant. But for a few years now, this road has witnessed a growing stream of bargain hunters from all over India on an unlikely shopping expedition.

When a ship dies, it doesn't receive a dignified burial. It is taken apart to the every last valuable ounce of metal, and recycled. The process entails consequences to the environment.

But along the long road that leads to Alang, a cottage industry has sprung up, selling every reusable part found in a ship, ranging from furniture to crockery, carpets, consumer goods such as television sets and refrigerators and all kinds of knick-knacks. These represent a bargain for their low cost and typical high quality- ship makers generally use top-notch equipment to minimise repairs during the product's lifecycle.

Because of the bargains to be unearthed, and because goods that are not commonly found elsewhere can be bought here, the place attracts hoteliers, factory owners, art collectors (see box), home makers and others who come looking for the remains of a vessel.

"Ship builders and owners do not take chance with quality of products they use and install on board. Anything that comes on ship has to be capable of performing in any marine conditions and also meet some of the global regulatory provisions," says Vimal Vaja, whose Harsh Traders sells kitchen appliances.

Kitchen equipment makers use much better grade of steel to cater to the marine business, Vaja says. Utensils, refrigerators, coffee makers, sandwich grillers, platforms, hotplates, dish washers, steam cattle, vegetable cutting machines, soda makers, dough makers and ice cube makers used in ships all have very robust build and are sought after by the hospitality sector.

Nearly a thousand shops dotting the main road sell used goods. There is no guarantee, but there is a bargain to be driven at every store. Many goods-especially electronics and home appliances-can be of very high quality, and feature designs not commonly seen in India. This is true also for furniture, carpets and other such household items. Boats, gym equipment, video games, navigation equipment, machine parts, tools and heavy machinery are also found in abundance.

This has turned Alang into a hot destination for small businesses. Factory owners from industrial centres such as Jalandhar, Noida, Chennai, Hyderabad and Coimbatore come here looking for used diesel generator sets, motors, welding equipment, turbo chargers, oil purifier, heat exchangers, cooling towers, navigational safety equipment and other such industrial products.

Toothpicks to TV Sets

Traders dealing in different products visit the vessel once the ship breaker is through with clearances from customs, the pollution control board and the maritime board. Traders negotiate with ship breakers for the entire cache of goods in their category.

Payments are made within a month of delivery that comes in phases once workers start dismantling the ship. Over the years, traders have become highly specialised and many boast a loyal clientele that come from afar to buy from them. Girish Dave of Bhagwati Traders is among the earliest entrants in the trade and owns a shop close to the yard. "I used to deal only in furniture when my shop was in the beginning of the market outside of ship breaking yard.

Source: economic times. By Mitul Thakkar. 01 December 2012

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