27 May 2017

EU Leads the Way for Ship Recycling:

Ask someone in the United States what happens to ocean-going ships at the end of their service life and they’ll likely describe National Geographic pictures of ships on beaches in some foreign country, with sandal-clad workers using hammers and cutting torches to take them apart. However, these recycling methods are destined to become a relic of the past. The future will be one where workers wear appropriate safety equipment. It will also be one where ships are not simply driven onto a beach. And it will be one largely driven by changes mandated by the European Union.

The future began in 2009 when the International Maritime Organization adopted the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The goal of the convention is to ensure that ships are dismantled in conditions that do not pose “unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment.” Surprisingly, the convention does not ban beaching. It will only enter into force twenty-four months after ratification by fifteen states, representing forty percent of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, and combined maximum annual ship recycling volume not less than three per cent of their combined tonnage.

Norway was the first country to ratify the convention. Congo, France, Belgium, Panama, and Turkey followed suit, and on May 9, the Danish Parliament passed a law enabling Denmark to ratify it. Unfortunately, these seven countries aren’t enough, and more countries must act to bring the Hong Kong Convention into force.

The slow pace of the convention’s ratification has allowed the European Union to become the new standard-bearer for change. In 2013, the EU passed a regulation wherein all EU flagged ships are required to be dismantled in EU-approved facilities. The first list of approved facilities was released in December 2016, and all were within the EU.

When the list was released, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations immediately questioned why non-EU facilities were left off. “Approximately 150 container vessels were sent for recycling in 2016, the current EU list would cater for only 16 smaller container vessels . . . We thus strongly encourage the Commission to enlarge the list to non-EU facilities as soon as possible,” the association said in a statement.

There is a strong likelihood the EU will certify some non-EU facilities but not all of them, especially those that employ beaching methods.  And that’s why India, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, and Turkey are paying attention.  These countries dismantle the majority of the world’s ships and many of their facilities still employ the beaching method.

The French environmental advocacy group Robin Des Bois estimates that in the first quarter of 2017, “225 ships out 240 were being demolished in India, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, in China and in Turkey . . . [and only] 5 ships are being broken up in European facilities.”

In the United States, President Donald J. Trump has issued several executive orders that benefit the US ship recycling industry. Specifically, President Trump directed that pipelines be built with US steel. There is a lot of steel in obsolete U.S. commercial and military ships, and it can be re-used to make pipes. The Steel Manufacturers Association and the Specialty Steel Industry of North America estimate that the U.S. steel industry recycled 70 millions tons of scrap last year, conserving energy and reducing the burden on landfills.

So what will the remainder of 2017 look like for ship recyclers? First, the EU will continue to set the standards for world-wide dismantlement. China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey will seek EU certification of their ship recycling facilities highlighting their new environmental and safety measures. And the United States will implement the President’s “America First” strategy and the steel from dismantled commercial and military ships will be used in infrastructure projects. All of these efforts will produce a worldwide ship recycling industry that is safer for workers, the environment and the world.

Source: maritime executive. 24 May 2017

Injustice of compensation

Families of workers killed in Ctg shipbreaking yards allege that they are not getting such proper benefit.

Al-Amin came to Chittagong all the way from Khulna in search of work so that he could support a seven-member family back home. But little did he know what awaited him.

While on duty, the 27-year-old worker of a shipbreaking yard in Chittagong got killed in an accident on September 5, 2015 -- an end to his struggle for bringing smile to his family members. However, the sufferings of his dear ones began as his untimely death put his entire family into poverty.

Al-Amin's sister Rabeya said the compensation they had received at the cost of the only earning member of the family was insufficient. They now find it difficult to make ends meet, she said, adding, “We got three lakh taka as compensation -- Tk 1 lakh through a labour court and Tk 2 lakh directly from the owner.”

Though there is a government regulation that shipbreaking yard owners will have to pay Tk 5 lakh for each death in accident at the yards, families of the deceased workers allege that they have not received proper compensation as per the rule.

Take another example of Abdul Karim. The 22-year-old worker was killed in an accident at another shipbreaking yard on May 29 last year, putting his family into severe financial crisis.

Karim's mother Amena Begum said she had received Tk 1 lakh through a labour court and Tk 80,000 from the owner. “Karim was the lone bread earner of the family…the money we got as compensation was very little.”

In the last 12 years, between 2005 and 2016, at least 165 workers like Al-Amin and Karim got killed in accidents at shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, according to NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of environmental, human and labour rights organisations whose goal is to prevent toxic end-of-life ships from being beached in developing countries.

However, allegation runs rife that the number of actual deaths might be higher than the abovementioned figure, as accidents at yards are not often reported to police. Therefore, exact figure of dead workers are not known, nor are the compensations paid to their families.

Tapan Dutt, convener of Shipbreaking Workers' Trade Union Forum, said owners are not paying the due compensation to the dead workers' families as per Ship Breaking and Recycling Rule 2011.

In the chapter VIII of the Rules published in December 12, 2011, it was said, “If the negligence of yard owner established, board [Ship Building and Ship Recycling Board (SBSRB)] may impose suspension of yard for one year, or a penalty from Taka one lakh to ten lakhs by realizing the magnitude of the negligence of the yard decided by SBSRB and the yard owner will pay to the next of kin up to Taka 5 (Five) lakhs as compensation for each death in accident and up to Taka 2 (Two) lakhs for deceased or seriously injured and with complete treatment and 12 months' salary as compensation or in accordance with the Labour Act 2016.”

Referring to the rules, Tapan said, “The owners must pay Tk 5 lakh as compensation to the family of each worker killed in accident at the yards.”

Echoing Tapan, Abdur Rahim, general secretary of Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Federation, said owners usually do not want to pay Tk 5 lakh as compensation.

“We have recently realised Tk 5 lakh from an owner for a victim's family. But it is true that we cannot succeed in most of the cases,” he said, adding, “We are trying to implement it for every incident.”

Contacted, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association (Bela), said the owners pay compensation as per labour law.

But there is a separate rule formulated in December 2011 by the ministry of industries for shipbreaking yards, where it has been clearly said that the owners should pay Tk 5 lakh each for workers killed in accident at yards, said she.

“I don't know why the rule is not being followed,” she said, adding, “There is no scope here for considering labour law as a barrier to implement this rule.”

Bangladesh Coordinator of NGO Shipbreaking Platform Mohammad Ali Shahin also said, “We have been demanding to set the compensation amount minimum at Tk 5 lakh, but it is yet to be implemented.”

Contacted, Abdul Hai Khan, deputy inspector general, department of inspection for factories and establishment, Chittagong, said the shipbreaking and recycling rules were formed following a High Court order but act in this regard has not been formulated yet. “So we cannot enforce it,” he said, adding, “It is very important to formulate an act in this regard.”

“But we are trying to increase the amount of compensation,” he said. “In a meeting of Industrial Crisis Committee, headed by deputy commissioner of Chittagong, on September 1 last year, a decision to pay Tk 5 lakh compensation to each killed worker's family was made and we are trying to implement the decision.”

Contacted, Abu Taher, president of Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, said no such decision was made in the meeting. “Actually it came as a proposal. We usually pay almost Tk 3 lakh to Tk 4 lakh altogether to a victim's family.”

Source: the daily star. 22 May 2017

23 May 2017

Working conditions at Gadani ship-breaking yard ‘still bad’:

Seminar told no efforts made since November 2016 when around 40 workers had died in oil tanker explosion

Despite the loss of almost 40 lives of workers at the Gadani ship-breaking yard since November 2016, no efforts have been made by the state or the owners to improve the conditions.

This was stated by Nasser Mansoor, general secretary of the Pakistan National Trades Unions Federation (PNTUF), while addressing a seminar at the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences on Saturday evening.

Departments like the police and the environment took bribes from the owners to do their bidding against the labourers, he alleged.

The capitalist owners, he said, spent Rs4million on having the genuine union of the workers

De-registered. “Now we have a union but our collective bargaining is not recognised.”

Mansoor said there was total blockage of news of accidents that occurred and things were just hushed up.

“There’s no proper sanitary system for the workers, no proper messing. A plate of Daal which may be selling for Rs60 in town sells for Rs90 at Gadani. A Roti which sells for Rs5 in town is likely to cost Rs10 there.

Factories are serving as slaughter houses.”

Industrialists and politician industrialists were not playing the government-mandated minimum wage of Rs14,000 a month to their workers, despite the fact that these politicians were constantly shedding crocodile’s tears for the workers.

He said that at the time of the recent accidents, no government functionary or politician came to enquire after the welfare of the workers. The only person who came with 60 vehicles and generous aid was the late Abdul Sattar Edhi’s son, Faisal Edhi.

The way ship-breaking was being carried out, without any set code, harmful substances were being dumped into the sea polluting marine life, which was such an important source of food and protein, he said.

“It is the people who have to get together against this order and change the narrative,” he said.

Mansoor said all the oppressed and the working classes would have to unite to change the unjust order. He said that there was a deliberate attempt to shut Pakistan Steel to pander to the interests of the steel importers and a section of the bureaucracy. “If the state and the capitalists don’t go by what they have written, sooner or later there’s sure to be a mighty conflagration.”

Mansoor’s talk was preceded by the screening of a movie which showed four case studies of the state of workers after some of those countries went capitalist and workers were taken for a ride. The four case studies were those of Ukraine, Indonesia, Gadani Ship-breaking Works and China.

The movie showed the conditions of the mine workers in Ukraine after independence and the end of the socialist era and China after the country went avowedly capitalist. The condition of Chinese workers is depicted as horrible under capitalism.

Source: the news. 21 May 2017

22 May 2017

Ship Breaking Yard: One killed in Chittagong; safety gears absent

A worker was killed as an iron pipe fell on him yesterday at a ship-breaking yard in Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong.

The deceased was identified as Sachindra Das, 26, son of Jaghdeb Das of South Jahanabad Jelepara of Sonapara in Sitakunda.

According to the inquest report, Sachindra was brought to Chittagong Medical College Hospital with injuries to his neck and head around 1:30am. He was declared dead at the time.

Fellow workers, who brought him to the hospital, said that an iron pipe fell on him when he was cutting a portion of iron equipment in night shift without any safety gear at Kabir Steel Ltd in Chairman Ghata Madambibir Hat.

Police, however, said the victim was an employee of Khawja Ship-Breaking Yard of the same area.

Md Saifullah, sub-inspector of Sitakunda Police Station, said both Kabir Steel Ltd and Khawja Ship-Breaking Yard were owned by Md Shahjahan. “That is probably why wrong company name was entered [into the hospital records]”

The accident took place around 12:10am, said Mangal Das under whom Sachindra was working.

The authority of Khawja Ship-Breaking Yard said the accident occurred on Saturday evening when workers were about to leave the place.

“We gave him primary treatment at our own medical facility and sent him to Chittagong Medical College Hospital as his condition deteriorated,” Shahidul Islam, who identified himself as assistant officer (admin) of the yard, said on phone.

He refuted the allegation that employees worked night shifts without safety gears. But he could not answer to the question as to why the victim had suffered injuries to the head if he wore a helmet.

Md Shahjahan, owner of the ship-breaking yards, could not be reached by phone for comments.

Meanwhile, an unnatural death case has been filed in connection with the incident, according to police.   

Source: the daily star. 22 May 2017

20 May 2017

Courts Criticized After Deaths in Breaking YardsCredit: NGO Shipbreaking Platform - Hanjin Rome beached in Chittagong, Bangladesh

Hanjin Rome
Credit: NGO Shipbreaking Platform - Hanjin Rome beached in Chittagong, Bangladesh

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports that two workers lost their lives at Chittagong shipbreaking yards in May, bringing the total death toll this year to six workers.

On 6 May, 26-year-old Shahinoor died at Jamuna Shipbreaking yard after falling whilst working on the Hanjin Rome, the first vessel arrested after the collapse of Hanjin Shipping last year. The vessel was put up for auction by the High Court in Singapore early this year, and the Platform said the vessel was sold to a cash buyer for recycling.

This is not the first time that courts, in deciding on bankruptcy cases, completely ignore the environmental and human repercussions of selling shipping assets to beaches, with the sole purpose of sorting out failed companies’ balance books, says Ingvild Jenssen, Founding Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Jenssen says deaths on the beaches have also been a direct consequence from bankruptcy cases in Germany, such as the sale of the King Justus to Alang and the Viktoria Wulff to Chittagong.

“That insolvency administrators appointed by the courts in Singapore and Germany have been allowed to trade unprofitable ships to the beaches of South Asia is shocking,” she says.

On 9 May, winch operator Ishaq was hit by a wire cable and died on the spot at KR Steel. According to local sources, KR Steel was dismantling the vessels Sea Zenith and Kota Wisata when Ishaq was killed.

Earlier this year the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (IGLHR) published a detailed account of the fatal accidents that killed 19 workers in Chittagong in 2016. The report includes interviews with workers that describe harsh conditions, lack of protective equipment, exposure to toxic gases and fumes and a constant fear of dying at work:

“There are enclosed dark places on the ship, where there is no ventilation. The cutters go in first [to cut holes in the sides to let light in]. Especially they get sick and nauseous,” a worker reports to IGLHR.

“All of us cutters get sick from the chemicals. It always happens,” other workers add. “I work at night because the owner wanted me to work the night shift,” says a worker, adding, “it is cooler. You sweat less. So for me, it is better. But it is more dangerous. That is the biggest worry: It is very risky. At any time, I could lose my life”.

Chittagong-based Platform member Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) recently organized a human chain and a rally gathering more than 100 workers and their family members.

“Six workers have died this year. Many more workers have suffered serious injuries. Safety and workers’ rights are shamefully being ignored in most yards,” said Muhammed Ali Shahin from YPSA. “Whereas the Bangladesh Shipbreakers’ Association is reluctant to take any action on the yards where workers are dying, the Courts should act immediately to ensure that no yard is allowed to operate in breach of national laws on occupational safety and environmental protection.”

Source: maritime executive. 18 May 2017

18 May 2017

Greece Tops World's Worst Shipping Nation

NGO Shipbreaking Platform Annual Report 2016 listed Greece as number one in World's Worst Shipping Nation followed by China.

It may be surprising for a country whose industry is proud of green technology and engineering solutions, but in 2016 Germany was responsible for the worst shipbreaking practices amongst all shipping nations when one compares the size of its fleet to the number of ships broken irresponsibly.

German owners, banks and ship funds had a staggering 97 ships rammed up on the beaches of South Asia out of a total of 99 vessels sold for demolition. That not being enough, close to 40% were broken in Bangladesh, where conditions are known to be the worst.

Greece wasresponsible for the highest absolute number of ships sold to South Asian shipbreaking yards: 104 ships in total.

Since the Platform started to compile data in 2009, Greek shipping companies have unceasingly topped the list of owners that opt for dirty and dangerous shipbreaking. Other major ship-owning countries like Japan and South Korea sent nearly all of their old vessels for breaking in substandard yards on the beaches of South Asia.

Chinese ship owners sold 43 of their Chinese flagged end-of-life vessels to domestic ship recycling facilities, for which they receive subsidies from their government, while still dumping more than half of their old ships on beaches.

India sold all vessels to beaching facilities, 13 out of 25 were sold to Pakistan and Bangladesh European ship owners are responsible for more than one third of all ships sold for breaking. The total number of EU-owned and/or EU-flagged vessels dismantled in 2016 worldwide were 328: 274 of these ships, representing a jaw-dropping 84% of all European end-of-life ships, ended up in either India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

In terms of tonnage scrapped, European-owned ships thus represented more than 40% of all end-of-life vessels scrapped on the beaches.

Out of the 274 European vessels that were beached, only 44 were still sailing under European flag. 19 Europeanflagged vessels swapped their flag to a non-EU flag of convenience just weeks before hitting the beach.

The most popular end-of-life flags amongst all vessels scrapped on the beaches in 2016 were Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, Liberia, Comoros, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Palau, St Kitts and Nevis and Comoros are flags that are almost exclusively used by  cash buyers at endof-life.

Source: marine link. 16 May 2017

Bashir Mehmoodani - a Shahenshah on a mission

When the workers' movement at the yard had nearly been crushed, it was Bashir who rejuvenated it, claim workers at the Gadani Shipbreaking Yard. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Not a sound could be heard other than waves crashing on the beach through the spaces between the decommissioned vessels moored at the Gadani Shipbreaking Yard for dismantling and the sound of cranes dropping heavy metal sheets to the ground. The wind blew fiercely, causing the keffiyeh that was around the head and face of Gul Rehman alias Chacha, a veteran welder, to slip and fall to the ground. He bent down to retrieve the item but it blew ahead, his co-workers laughing as he gave chase.

Amid the workers’ growing cheers for Chacha, a metallic grey Suzuki Mehran honked from behind him. He glanced behind with distaste. Just as he was about to hurl profanity at the driver, he stopped and instead yelled something in Balochi, making both the men smile. Chacha resumed his chase of the keffiyeh while the driver lit a cigarette from a pack of Dunhill Lights before stepping out of the vehicle.

The man had a lean figure of five foot and 10 inches. He wore a white-coloured shalwar kameez and black Peshawari sandals. Shading his eyes were a pair of wayfarer sunglasses.
Ban asbestos in Pakistan, plead trade unionists

As he walked towards the cheering workers, the wind caused his suit mould to his body, revealing that he was even thinner than he appeared. “Salam,” everyone greeted him respectfully, nodding at his similar reply.

The man is Bashir Mehmoodani, president of the Gadani Shipbreaking Yard Workers Union, who, by his fellows, has been dubbed ‘Shahenshah’, a reference to a character played by Indian veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan in one of his blockbuster Bollywood movies. “In the movie, Shahenshah was a friend of the oppressed, so is Bashir,” revealed Muhammad Boota, a worker hailing from Dera Ghazi Khan.

Word on the beach suggested that Mehmoodani assumed the responsibility of the state when it blatantly failed to fulfil it to ensure that at the most dangerous and arguably the second largest shipbreaking yard in the world, only ships come to die, not men. “When the workers’ movement at the yard had nearly been crushed, it was Bashir who rejuvenated it,” lauded Boota.

Chief secretary visits shipbreaking yard in Balochistan

Mehmoodani’s story came into limelight from 2006 when he fought a legal battle with Hubco Power Company over workers’ issue but lost. For him, there was no chance to go back to the power plant so he decided to move to another profession. Meanwhile, he remained active in local politics with the Balochistan National Party – Mengal and resolved people’s issue. His fame had nearly gripped town and then in 2009, a man who he knew from before but had never spoken to, asked him for help.

“Tahir Yusufzai, the then general secretary of the workers union, asked me to lead the movement for labourers because he was forced into exile from the district by the authorities,” Mehmoodani told The Express Tribune at his office located off the road running through the yard. The office is made up of wood from the ships. It has no electricity due to recurring power outages. Instead, sunlight that enters the room from a broken window lights it up enough to see faces of the occupants.

The eight-year-long journey that Mehmoodani has covered at the shipbreaking yard as a labour leader narrated an unusual tale of a common man mustering enough courage to cross paths with the far more powerful and wealthy ship-breakers and even richer contractors and enough muscle to bring them to the table for negotiations. “They wouldn’t listen to us as if we, our lives and our families were of no importance. All they cared for was their profit,” he described, narrating his encounters with the employers.

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“The police, the labour department – everyone was on their payroll. They bought even the journalists to stop the news from Gadani from reaching the outside world. A few years back, you wouldn’t hear about workers’ deaths at the yard while it was happening due to lack of safety,” he recalled. “We resisted. We fought with all that we have. It wasn’t simple. We were arrested and booked in false cases. But we stood firm.”

Having given a considerable portion of his life to the workers’ struggle at Gadani, Mehmoodani, who is now 37-years-old, is proud of only one thing, despite the fact that upon close inspection there are many things for him to be proud of. “I am happy that the workers who, in the past, would be afraid of their employers sacking them if they said anything against them, have gained the courage to talk to them eye to eye,” he said.

On November 1, when 26 workers were killed and dozens others wounded in an oil tanker blast in Gadani, it was Mehmoodani who reached the spot before the authorities and guided the workers through a rescue operation on their own. “Everyone panicked and there was a reason,” said Chacha. “No one has seen or heard about such a fire at the yard, which has been working for more than four decades. It was Bashir who organised them and acted like a general in a time of war.”

Unpaid wages force WASA worker to commit suicide in Hyderabad

Almost all the victims of the oil tanker fire have been given compensation – Rs1.5 million to each worker killed – by the employers. This is the first time that relief has been given in a relatively short period of time, unlike previous claims that still remain pending either with the employers or with the government. “In this world, it never goes the way you expect it to. You cannot fight crocodiles in a pond overcrowded by them unless you know the art of fighting,” said Mehmoodani.

Source: the express tribune. 01 May 2017

Bangladesh gets 37 ships for scrap in Q1 of 2017

A total of 37 ships were sold for scrap to Chittagong breaking yards in the first quarter of 2017.

In total 128 ships were sold to the South Asian beaches including Bangladesh during the period, according to a report published in www.hellenicshippingnews.com.

The Alang beach in India was by far the most popular destination for end-of-life ships this quarter, with 69 ships sold for breaking. This quarter 22 ships were sold for breaking in Pakistan

196 ships were sold in total the first quarter of 2017, meaning that 65 per cent ended up on beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

51 of the beached vessels were container ships.

The other main shipbreaking destinations, Turkey and China, received 36 and 28 vessels respectively.

 Four ships were destined for recycling in other locations outside the main five breaking nations.

European companies accounted for half of the vessels beached in South Asia the first quarter.

 For the first time, German owners topped the list with 26 ships sold to South Asian breakers, followed by Greek owners with 17 beached end-of-life vessels.

Eleven workers were killed and at least four additional workers were injured whilst cutting down the vessels manually on the tidal beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Source: the financial express. 27 Apr 2017

And another worker dies in May at Chittagong yard with an appalling accident record:

Brussels, 18 May 2017 - Two workers lost their lives at the Chittagong shipbreaking yards in the last two weeks, bringing the total death toll this year to six workers.

On 6 May, 26-year-old Shahinoor died at Jamuna Shipbreaking yard. He fell from a great height when he was breaking the HANJIN ROME, which was the first vessel arrested after the collapse of one of the largest container ship companies last year – the Korean company Hanjin Shipping. The HANJIN ROME was put up for auction by the High Court in Singapore to be sold to the highest bidder early this year. Unsurprisingly, the highest bids for buying ships for scrap come from cash buyers that sell to the South Asian beaching yards who can offer higher steel prices with minimal disposal and labour costs and safeguards. This is not the first time that courts, in deciding on bankruptcy cases, completely ignore the environmental and human repercussions of selling shipping assets to beaches, with the sole purpose of sorting out failed companies’ balance books. Deaths on the beaches have also been a direct consequence from bankruptcy cases in Germany, such as the sale of the KING JUSTUS to Alang and the VIKTORIA WULFF to Chittagong.

On 9 May, winch operator Ishaq was smashed by the wire cable and died on the spot at KR Steel. This is the second fatal accident this year at the plot – another fatal accident happened in February at BBC Shipbreaking yard which is under the same ownership as KR Steel. According to local sources, KR Steel was dismantling the vessels SEA ZENITH and KOTA WISATA when Ishaq was killed. The former was owned by the Thai shipping group Sang Thai & Sinsimon. The latter was owned by Singapore-based Pacific International Lines (PIL), one of the top containership operators in the world. PIL sent nine end-of-life vessels to the beaches of South Asia in the last four years. Six ended up in the worst yards on the shores of Chittagong.

“Shipping companies globally are aware of the dangerous and polluting practices on the breaking beaches in South Asia,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Founding Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “The higher profit that ship owners make by selling to cash buyers has a human cost and an environmental cost. That insolvency administrators appointed by the courts in Singapore and Germany have been allowed to trade unprofitable ships to the beaches of South Asia is shocking,” she adds.

Earlier this year the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (IGLHR) published a detailed account of the fatal accidents that killed 19 workers in Chittagong in 2016. The report includes interviews with workers that describe harsh conditions, lack of protective equipment, exposure to toxic gases and fumes, and a constant fear of dying at work: “There are enclosed dark places on the ship, where there is no ventilation. The cutters go in first [to cut holes in the sides to let light in]. Especially they get sick and nauseous,” a worker reports to IGLHR. “All of us cutters get sick from the chemicals. It always happens,” other workers add. “I work at night because the owner wanted me to work the night shift,” says a worker, adding “it is cooler. You sweat less. So for me, it is better. But it is more dangerous. That is the biggest worry: It is very risky. At any time, I could lose my life”.

Activists and workers in Bangladesh recently raised their voices on two important days for workers’ rights. On 28 April, the World Day for Health & Safety at Work, the Platform member Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE) foundation organised a rally and a human chain to raise awareness on the precarious conditions at the Chittagong shipbreaking yards. Workers affected by asbestosis or having suffered injuries joined OSHE for further discussions on how to strengthen claims for compensation. On 1 May Chittagong-based Platform member Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) organised a human chain and a rally gathering more than 100 workers and their family members.

“Six workers have died this year. Many more workers have suffered serious injuries. Safety and workers’ rights are shamefully being ignored in most yards,” said Muhammed Ali Shahin from YPSA. “Whereas the Bangladesh Shipbreakers’ Association is reluctant to take any action on the yards where workers are dying, the Courts should act immediately to ensure that no yard is allowed to operate in breach of national laws on occupational safety and environmental protection,” he adds.

Source: NGO Shipbreaking Platform. 18 May 2017

17 May 2017

Shipbreaker completes salvage of former USS Constellation

International Shipbreaking Ltd. just finished dismantling one aircraft carrier at the Port of Brownsville and is about to take delivery of another one.

The company, part of the EMR Group, lifted the last piece of the former USS Constellation — a roughly 12,000-pound propeller shaft strut — out of the water on May 10, two years and a few months after the steel behemoth arrived at Brownsville for scrapping, according to International Shipbreaking Vice President Robert Berry.

The decommissioned USS Independence, which left Bremerton, Wash., March 11 under tow for the 16,000-mile trip around the tip of South America to Brownsville, is expected to arrive May 31 or June 1, he said.

Berry said he’s trying to get a firmer estimated-time-of-arrival, since the company is planning a ceremony at Isla Blanca Park for veterans who served on the carrier, which was commissioned in 1959 and decommissioned in 1998.

The company is holding the ceremony in response to feedback from numerous veterans of other carriers that have come to Brownsville, who felt a tribute of some sort should take place. The Independence will be the fifth Navy “supercarrier” to arrive at the port for scrapping.

Berry said taking apart such a large vessel is a monumental undertaking, while the ships themselves can mean a great deal to the people who were stationed on them. Tens of thousands of people will have served on a carrier by the time it’s decommissioned, and according to veterans groups as many as 85 percent of those stationed aboard vessels that were retired in the last 20 years are still living, he said.

“When it’s a fighting ship there’s always a lot of memories and a lot of reflection over the life of that ship and all the people that served on it,” Berry said.

The company also fields inquiries from many veterans and their families seeking mementos — the plastic plaques above ships’ doorways are much in demand, for example, he said. The company has an eBay store with such items from recycled vessels, Berry said.

“We move a lot of stuff,” he said. “It’s not what we do for a living, but it’s part of what we do because we think it’s the right thing to do.”

Source: Brownsville Herald. 15 May 2017

10 May 2017

Former Carnival Cruise Ship Getting Scrapped

It’s always tough when you have to let go of something you once loved. For cruisers, that ship you sailed on long ago and probably haven’t thought about much in recent years, despite her having once been the good time that was had by all. So we felt a tug on our heartstrings upon finding out that the Carnival Jubilee — having been sold long ago and sailed under several names since — seems finally destined for the scrapyard.

Put up for sale by most recent owners HNA Cruises — under whose flag she sailed as the Henna — the vessel was recently photographed at what will likely be her final resting place, a ship-scrapping yard in Alang, India. And while this isn’t exactly news given that the company had been trying to sell the rusting ship — with an asking price of around $35 million — since 2015, it still hit many cruisers hard.

Former Carnival Cruise Line ship

Where Her Sister Ships Are
When introduced in 1986, Jubilee was one of three Holiday-class ships, along with the Holiday and the Celebration. And while Jubilee was the first of her class to be sold, by 2009, Carnival had divested itself of all three. For comparison’s sake, the 10-story ships weighed in at around 47,000 tons and carried approximately 1,800 passengers.

For sake of comparison, newest ship to join the Carnival fleet, Horizon, will come in at 15 decks, 133,000 tons and ferry just under 4,000 passengers.

As of now, the ship formerly known as Celebration, which was sold by Carnival in 2007, is known as the MS Grand Celebration and has sailed with the Bahamas Paradise Cruise lines since 2015. The Holiday was sold by Carnival in 2009, and now sails as the MS Magellan for the British company Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

Source: cruise radio. 07 May 2017

08 May 2017

Where oil rigs go to die

When a drilling platform is scheduled for destruction, it must go on a thousand-mile final journey to the breaker’s yard. As one rig proved when it crashed on to the rocks of a remote Scottish island, this is always a risky business.

It was night, stormy, and the oil rig Transocean Winner was somewhere in the North Atlantic on 7 August 2016 when her tow-line broke. No crew members were on board. The rig was being dragged by a tugboat called Forward, the tethered vessels charting a course out of Norway that was meant to take them on a month-long journey to Malta. Within the offices of Transocean Ltd, the oil-exploration company that owned the rig, such a journey might have been described with corporate seemliness as an “end-of-life voyage”; but in the saltier language heard offshore, the rig was “going for fucking razorblades” – for scrap, to be dismantled in a shipbreaking yard east of Malta. In that Atlantic storm, several thousand miles from her intended destination, Winner floated free.

The 33-year-old rig had never moved with so little constraint. Winner was huge – 17,000 tonnes, like an elevated Trafalgar Square, complete with a middle derrick as tall as Nelson’s Column, her four legs the shape of castle keeps; all this was borne up in the water on a pair of barge-sized pontoons – and its positioning had always been precisely controlled. While moored, she was held in place by eight heavy anchors. At other times, she was sailed with a pilot at the helm as if she were any other ship. When contracted to drill in the North Sea, as she had been since the 1980s, boring into the bedrock for hidden reservoirs of oil, Winner’s anchors and underwater propellers worked together with her on-board computers to “dynamically position” her – that is, keep her very still. The men and women who formed Winner’s crew – drillers and engineers and geologists and divers and cleaners and cooks, most of them Norwegian – imagined this rig to have a character that would resist such checks. They nicknamed her Svanen, or Swan, because to them she was both elegant and unyielding. Scheduled as she was for destruction, Winner could not have chosen a better moment to bolt.

The master on the tugboat Forward radioed for help. Through a series of exchanges with Transocean, as well as with the British coastguard and Forward’s owners, the Rotterdam-based ALP Maritime, the master explained his situation. Both tugboat and rig had been caught in heavy weather while circumnavigating the Hebrides, sailing a mile and a half off the Scottish islands. It turned into the worst summer storm in the region for years, with winds of 40 knots and waves 10 metres high. Throughout the afternoon of 7 August, Forward and Winner were tossed on a course running parallel with the coast of Lewis, one of the outermost Hebridean islands. For a time it seemed they would be sent on by, still fettered to each other, still Mediterranean-bound. But in the early evening the wind changed direction, and Forward and Winner – or more accurately, Winner and Forward, given that the rig was now acting as a huge metal sail and comfortably tugging her own tugboat – were forced landward. It was around 4am when the master radioed to confirm that the tow-line had snapped.

Winner had, for all of her life, been painted bright orange. The colour had become chipped and rust-stained over time, but was still vivid in daylight, visible for miles. In the storm, the rig disappeared completely. Radar data from those early-morning hours showed Forward moving back and forth in the water off Lewis, as if retracing steps for something misplaced. It was agreed between Transocean, ALP, the coastguard and other emergency authorities that Winner was irretrievable. Everybody would wait until sunrise, and see.

The world has a problem with its oil rigs. There are too many of them, and for the first time since the earliest manufacture of seaborne drilling platforms 50 or 60 years ago, decisions are being made about how and where to get rid of them in number. That there should be a sudden surplus is vexing for those invested in undersea drilling: as recently as 2010 the rigs were thought too few. Back then, had an oil company such as Shell or BP or Marathon wanted to dig down and discover what was lying beneath a particular patch of sea, it wasn’t unusual for them to wait as long as a year until an exploration company such as Transocean or Diamond or Ensco had a rig available to lease to them. It was a time of undersupply. Dozens of new rigs were commissioned, and worldwide orders tripled between 2010 and 2011. But oil rigs take two or three years to build, and by the time these were ready for use, the price of oil had declined sharply, and with it the industry’s hunger to prospect – thus the oversupply. Rigs without contracts to drill were either “cold-stacked” (anchored without crew) to wait for a market recovery, or sold for demolition. More than 40 oil rigs were waved off on end-of-life voyages in 2015, according to data gathered by a Brussels-based maritime NGO called Shipbreaking Platform; up from a single dispensed-with rig, so far as the NGO knew, in 2014.

The Transocean Winner drilling rig off the coast of the Isle of Lewis after it ran aground in severe weather conditions. Tuesday August 9, 2016. 
It was a hasty and disordered rebalancing of the global fleet, and not all the decisions made were sensible. In the spring of 2016, for instance, at about the time Transocean was considering whether or not to decommission Winner, its drilling rival Ensco sent away two rigs that were relatively new: built in 2004, and meant to bear 30 or 40 years of graft, but hurriedly euthanised after 12. Winner, by comparison, had lived long and busily. She was launched in 1983, and in the decades since had bobbed through market downturns and upturns, through winter hurricanes and underwater blowouts, and at least two on-board deaths. For the most part, Winner’s 33 years at sea had been characterised by day after day of patient, repetitive work – the stuff that gives offshore life its rhythm and, for many, its special comfort. Drill supervisor André Arctander, a tanned greybeard from Stavanger in Norway, calculated that he had spent a third of his life on this rig. The colour of his boilersuit had changed, Arctander said, in accordance with the branding requirements of drilling clients, but he retained throughout a deeper loyalty to Winner and her regular crew “that went beyond corporate logos”. He spoke of getting so in tune with the rig during his fortnight-long stints on board that he could fall asleep in his cabin and wake up knowing half of what had happened while he was under, just from having felt the changes in Winner’s vibrations and having heard her machine-purrs.

In spring 2016, as Winner was nearing the end of an 11-month contract with Marathon to drill in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, rumours of her possible scrapping spread around the crew. In the rig’s “smoko” rooms and coffee shops, they discussed the contradiction that underpinned their industry: while the price of oil might move up and down, shareholders in drilling companies tended to prefer numbers that moved in only one direction. It was difficult and expensive to maintain a cold-stacked rig. Winner had herself been cold-stacked once, and the crew’s first task after reboarding was to snap away the icicles in their cabins. Meanwhile, there were immediate returns to be made by selling for scrap. “It would be better to have long-term plans and a buffer of funds to use during hard times,” Arctander thought. “But this is not how it works.” In July, Winner’s scrapping was confirmed. A Norwegian crane operator posted a message on the rig’s Facebook page: “Malta og spiker next.” Loosely translated, he meant: “Malta next, then a furnace – somewhere.”

It is common for rigs on end-of-life voyages to be towed with their tracking systems switched off. On 3 August, Winner sent out a final blip from a fjord in southern Norway, near Stavanger, and then stopped sending a signal. The tugboat Forward then took her out into the North Sea. On 6 August, Winner entered the Atlantic, and the next day she was lost in the storm off the Hebrides. On 8 August, shortly before sunrise on the Isle of Lewis, the oil rig washed in with the tide.

Her 17,000 tonnes came in on Dalmore Bay, one of the island’s prettiest beaches, a quarter-mile crescent of bone-coloured sand and muscular swell that, on a normal Monday morning, could expect to be visited by dog-walkers, surfers, kayakers, seabirds, even dolphins. Back behind the sand, where the beach narrowed and formed an uneven track up to the coastal road, lay the gravestones of a hundred or so islanders. A fractional difference in the gusts and tides overnight, and the runaway Winner might have brought her great weight down on the resting place of one Malcolm MacCauley, whose grave was set closest to the water. As it was, the rig collided with the headland that defined Dalmore Bay’s southern edge – a slope of marram grass busy with snails that rose to a boggy cliff and then fell away to rocks on the foreshore. Winner’s pontoons scraped into the shallows and a strut of her crosswise steel snagged on a tall, tooth-shaped crag. The rig pitched to the south, away from the beach, her derrick cutting obliquely across the sky and her helipad inclining at an angle that to the human eye read as almost apologetic. However terrific a noise this made nobody was around to hear it, bar the seabirds and snails. The police started to arrive around 7am, as did the first stunned residents.

Lewis is made of old, old rock. There is presumed to be Viking DNA coursing through the islanders, and it is a general trait of the community that its members be stoic and unhysterical, whatever difficulties – generally weather-borne – come this far north to trouble them. Perhaps there were some on Lewis that week who heard that an oil rig had struck and shrugged. But most who were mobile and even mildly curious put aside their habitual stoicism to make a trip to the beach and stare. “On Lewis?” said Don MacKay, a fisherman. “This was seismic.”

When MacKay journeyed to Dalmore to see Winner, he was put in mind of a steel spider, poised on the shore as if plotting some sinister next move. Laura Carse, a surfer, felt it was like the time she returned home to find her house had been burgled. Not because Winner’s presence struck her as violent, or a violation, “but because my brain could not quite manage the image”. This was as if a church or a rollercoaster had suddenly manifested on the sand. Don MacKay said: “Yes. It took a wee bit of time to absorb the info.”

Winner’s name was painted on her forward side, the black-on-yellow letters so large as to be crisply distinguishable from the shore – a scale that would only start to make sense to onlookers when emergency salvage workers boarded the rig, and it could be seen that each letter was about three humans tall. The first salvage mission to Winner was made by coastguard helicopter. A team of six were lowered one by one by winch to the deck of the rig, and were removed again by helicopter that evening. By Winner’s second day in Dalmore, the weather made any more such airborne trips impossible. For a week the rig simply stayed where she was, unoccupied, her weight against the rocks. When the salvors got back on board, they did so by boat, sailing close enough to hop on to a pontoon and scale one of the rig’s legs using ropes. It was not easy to go back and forth from rig to shore this way, so the team sequestered cabins and stayed aboard. One of them reported that, because of Winner’s tilt, her bunks were uncomfortable to sleep in, at least until they removed the cabin doors and propped them horizontally beneath the mattresses.

Tugboats and other support vessels now filled Dalmore Bay, waiting for the go-ahead to tow Winner off the rocks. Robotic diving units were sent underwater to collect images of the rig’s pontoons. Both were badly damaged, one with a narrow triangular hole that was at least 10 metres from end to end, the metal drawn and furled at the base so that it resembled a heaved-open theatre curtain. Early visitors to Dalmore had reported a smell of fuel coming over the sands. Nobody in this part of the country could forget what had happened in the Shetlands in the early 1990s when a tanker, Braer, foundered in a storm off the islands’ southern edge and disgorged many thousands of tonnes of crude oil into the water. There were fears of a similar spill from Winner, but the truth was that, although she was often referred to as an oil rig, Winner’s real business was mud. During her decades at sea, Winner was generally a tunneller, commissioned to bore through layers of undersea rock and sludge, after which a purpose-built tanker would float in and slurp up any finds. It was estimated at the time of her grounding that Winner carried a few hundred tonnes of diesel fuel, kept in tanks in her pontoons. Some of this fuel had escaped through the tears in the pontoons. Salvors drained what remained into tanks on the surrounding support boats, and meanwhile concocted a plan to pump compressed air into the newly emptied pontoons. This would set Winner afloat again. She could then be towed off the headland on a high or rising tide, and dragged to a bay on the other side of Lewis, where it could be figured out how to make her properly seaworthy.

What had begun as the quiet removal of Winner from Norway – a journey scarcely noticed by anyone outside the oil business – was now a richly public event. Nothing quite like it had happened in the Hebrides since the 1940s, when the cargo ship Politician, abundantly loaded with bottled spirits, ran aground on the nearby island of Eriskay. The local response on that occasion – an outrageous carrying-away of the booze – inspired a novel and a film, Whisky Galore. In the case of Winner, her plunder value existed in her bones – her predominantly steel frame – and it was residual value that would not be easily released; something to which Transocean could by now attest. It had in its fleet more rigs than any other drilling company – more than 70 in 2016 – and the earlier pruning of about a dozen of these vessels had been conducted with discretion. Now the sun was up on a fiasco.

Dave Walls was one of the Transocean directors who flew to Lewis from the company’s headquarters in Aberdeen. At a press conference on the island 11 days after the accident, Walls pledged that Winner would be recovered from the rocks and put her back on her journey east. “We will make right any damage,” Walls said. Transocean later gave the Dalmore community £120,000 in reparations. A financial statement released by the oil company in November 2016 made clear the larger cost of the accident: at least $21m (£16m). That month, on 21 November, Walls was asked at a parliamentary hearing about the circumstances leading up to Winner’s nighttime escape. Why had the rig been pulled into a storm that was long forecast? Walls seemed to suggest that the master on the tugboat Forward had tried, in error, to outrun or outmuscle the Hebridean seas. (The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has been looking into the incident since the summer of 2016, and its report is expected later this year. In response to my request for comment, Transocean cited this ongoing investigation and declined to answer my questions about Winner. In a statement, Transocean added: “We will continue to meet our responsibilities arising out of this incident.”)

On Lewis, in the aftermath of the grounding, there were historically unprecedented traffic jams on the single-track road to the beach. Access was now forbidden, and a policeman guarded the junction. Arriving on the island, I made enquiries about getting aboard Winner and was told, roughly speaking, that I had about as much chance of getting on the whisky-carrying Politician, which had been on the bottom of the sea for 70 years. A restriction zone around Winner took in land, sea and air, so that hikers were forbidden to walk the fringing coastal paths and fishermen were told to putter their boats at a distance. On the evening of 22 August, allowances were made for a seismic local event, and islanders were permitted back to their beach to watch Winner be towed away. Around a hundred people came to watch, a shuttle bus running them down the beach road in shifts. A tea station was set up by volunteers. Midges hummed about. At 9pm the sun went down behind the rig, quite spectacularly, and after that the tow-lines between Winner and her tugs visibly tautened. The underwater pontoons were filled with compressed air. A shout went up on the shore: “She’s on the move!” There was a ripple of applause.

As she came off the rocks, “seemingly inch by inch”, said Don MacKay, Winner continued to list very badly. She was towed north across the bay until hidden by a distant headland. There was another round of applause on the beach, then a polite rush for the first shuttle bus. MacKay was not sorry to see Winner go, he said, but like many of the islanders, he had become curious about the rig’s fate and intended to follow her progress. Authorities had said they expected Winner to arrive on the eastern side of Lewis the next day, a Tuesday. But when MacKay checked that day, she had not yet appeared. He checked again early on Wednesday. Still no sign. The runaway rig had once more disappeared from public view.

That Winner floated at all when she came off the rocks was the consequence of an old tragedy, half-forgotten by the summer of 2016, but rawly felt at the time of this rig’s invention. In 1980, a North Sea rig called Alexander Kielland had been struck by savage winds that weakened one of its legs and, with lethal suddenness, caused it to list and capsize. Of 212 crew, only 89 survived. North Sea rigs, it was ruled by British and Scandinavian authorities, must be fit to withstand such winds, and worse. That year, at the Götaverken Arendal shipyard in Gothenburg, Sweden, an engineer called Hadar Liden sketched Winner’s shape on paper with these instructions in mind. “If she lost a leg on the water,” recalled Liden, who in the 1970s and 80s was Götaverken’s chief of structural design, “even then she should be able to float.” At his drawing board, Liden conceived a rig that would remain buoyant in 100-knot winds, in 100-metre-high waves, even after being hit by, say, a fuel tanker. For improved stability, the new rig would be squatter, squarer and more symmetrical than the clumsily shaped, five-legged Kielland. Four-legged rigs had been built before, but were not then common. Inside Götaverken, which had built rigs to order but never before designed its own, Liden’s creation was nicknamed “the Little Chair”.

Götaverken wanted $65m to build the rig for a client (about $180m today), and a first order was placed in 1981 by a maritime firm in Oslo. Liden watched through his ninth-floor window at Götaverken headquarters, peering deep into the bed of the shipyard as a pair of 80m pontoons were constructed, each in a dry dock. Four circular stumps were built, each the size of pitched-over ferris wheels, added to in piequarter portions, to make the rigs legs. In 1982, the half-made rig was set afloat, and a multi-layered box of steel was craned into place to form the deck. Jutting struts, front and back, were strung with lifeboats. A 49m derrick was erected. By now the rig reached higher than Liden’s ninth-floor window. By 1983 it was ready for delivery, and its owners in Oslo promptly chartered the rig for several years to Saga Petroleum, a Norwegian firm that assumed naming rights. In her early years, the rig was known as Treasure Saga. A picture of her, freshly orange and resplendent, made the cover of one industry magazine.

Here was a rig, wrote the trade press, “for the 90s”. Liden and his colleagues expected their creation would last longer than that. In fact, the rig outlasted both the shipyard in which she was built (Götaverken closed in 1990) and the oil company she was first leased to (Saga was absorbed by a rival in 1999). Treasure Saga was bought by Transocean in 1998 and rechristened Transocean Winner. She was leased for months and years at a time on contracts to drill in North Sea oil fields, many of which had been given mythological names such as Asgard and Midgard, but which held in their depths somewhat more earthly riches. In 1969, a rig called Ocean Viking had been idly and unhopefully prospecting in this region, when a worker named Stale Salvensen, down on the drill floor enjoying a sly cigarette, smelled the distinctive, sour scent of unprocessed crude. By the time a superior was summoned from his cabin, there was so much oil sloshing around Viking’s lower deck that Salvensen’s boss slipped and fell in his pyjamas. And thus, ingloriously, a continent got its oil industry. The North Sea has been profitably drilled ever since, with exploration rights shared between its bordering countries, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Winner achieved some fame, in 2010, for striking the year’s biggest find, a reservoir in the Norwegian sector that yielded many hundreds of millions of barrels.

Hadar Liden had retired by then. He was living in Gothenburg when I called him at his home, in the autumn, not long after Winner’s grounding. I asked the 88-year-old if he had thought about his rig at all, since seeing it off out of Götaverken, and he said: “Oh, always.” Liden could recall in detail the proportion of high-tension steel that made up Winner’s overall weight (48%), and the mill in Sweden this steel had come from (Oxelösund, on the Baltic Sea). He found it harder to grasp just how much life had been lived aboard his Little Chair over three decades – the birthday cakes and Christmases, the bingo games and barbecues. Every evening she spent on board in the 1980s and 90s, a geologist named Brit Riise Fredheim would take a walk around the rim of the upper deck, and afterwards climb the derrick, for the exercise and the view. Of watching North Sea sunsets from Winner’s pinnacle, Fredheim said: “I felt like I owned the world.” The oil rig had a gym, and one year they brought on board a running machine. The crew got a slow satellite internet service. “We watched movies and farted and laughed together,” André Arctander said. He had been the rig’s unofficial counsellor, reassuring colleagues when the isolation of offshore life got overwhelming. “Many times,” said Arctander, “grown men came into my office and started to cry. My wife cannot believe this.”

Liden was unaware of Winner’s trials in Scotland: the storm, the grounding, and how, after lengthy relief work to tow the rig out of Dalmore Bay, Winner had seemed to vanish again, her reappearance after a 50-mile circumnavigation of Lewis dramatically delayed because of fears she would capsize. The rig eventually arrived in Broad Bay on the east of Lewis two days behind schedule, crewed by exhausted salvors who had hardly slept. While I told Liden about this, he listened patiently, with sympathy. Then the retired chief of structural design asked if I thought the rig had got into difficulties because of her structure. I said I thought not – that, if anything, her essential strength had prevented a worse disaster. “Good,” said Liden, “good.”

Broad Bay

The oil rig Transocean Winner being loaded on to the semi-submersible heavy-lifting ship Hawk.

The rig had been in Broad Bay for five weeks. Before dawn one morning in September, a salvage master called Sylvia Tervoort stood next to the boot of her car, putting on her work clothes in the dark. Half a mile over her shoulder, illuminated by onboard lights, Winner bobbed at anchor. Tervoort, a slight 38-year-old Dutchwoman from Castricum near Amsterdam, was quickly encased in bulky safety wear. Her padded orange coat was streaked all over with crusted oil. These streaks, she explained, were traceable back to some wild maritime calamity. There was the sunken rig she had helped raise in Alaska. The scuppered bulk carrier refloated in India. A pair of collided cargo ships (one carrying explosives) that had to be separated off Greece. For months in 2012 and 2013, Tervoort had hiked over the exposed hull of Costa Concordia, the Italian cruiseship that ran aground off the coast of Tuscany. Tervoort had for many years worked for the Dutch salvage firm SMIT, the only female salvage master at the company – and perhaps, she thought, in the world. She had never encountered another woman in such a position, and she had been all over: to South America, to Africa, deep out in the Atlantic – wherever a stricken vessel came to occupy the uncertain middle ground between serviceable craft and sea junk, she had been called to attend. Whether she was there to bring a craft back to life, or to siphon off its environment-threatening pollutants before a spill, or simply to strip a ship of its tangible riches before it sank, depended on the situation and the wants of her contractor in each case.

Tervoort put on a helmet and moved towards a motorboat that would take her and her team out to Winner in the bay. For this job, SMIT had been contracted by Transocean to oversee the curious work of fixing up a maimed and ailing rig, in order that that it might resume its voyage to be destroyed absolutely. Tervoort was “not interested in the politics” – as with the grounded fuel carrier she had dragged off a beach in Morocco, and the flaming cargo ship her team had boarded at sea, “a job’s a job. If people are happy making the signature on my salary, it’s OK.” As a salvage master, she tended to think about troubled vessels in binary terms. If not “assets” still afloat, then “wrecks”. She knew the transition from asset to wreck could be lethally quick, and a consequence of either impatience or overcaution by salvors.

With Winner, Tervoot had prescribed caution rather than haste – much to the frustration, I was told, of authorities, who would have preferred to see the rig leave Scotland as quickly as possible. Tervoort would not be hurried. She had once spent a month in the hold of a stranded bulk carrier off Cuba, without the means to wash, except when a rainstorm gathered, at which point she trotted up on to deck in her bikini. Her life as a salvor seemed to require that she be in possession of a crazy array of skills: seamanship, engineering, calculus, rope climbing, parkour, mild piracy, among others. More than anything, though, the work demanded composure and courage, plus a total lack of awe about outsized seacraft. Civilians crane their necks and coo at large ships. Tervoort saw only assets – and moreover, assets that itched to become wrecks.

It was in my capacity as a neck-craner that I had followed Winner to the Hebrides, getting as close to the rig as I could, which was never that close. Tervoort’s team arrived in the car park, bussed in from the north of the island where they had been billeted at Transocean’s expense in a holiday lodge. While they boarded the motorboat, I asked Tervoort if I could sail out with them. Get up close, see the rig. Tervoort replied, levelly, “No.” As the boat sped away, I could hear her tease her team about the cold. The sun had started to rise, turning Winner a striking crimson.

On a hillside to the east of the bay, I met a pair of hikers who were admiring the rig and counting the support vessels that floated near her. The most impressive of these vessels, a heavy-lifting ship called Hawk, was one of the largest in her class – really preposterously large, with an awesome rectangular deck that was something like the size of a Pall Mall or a Piccadilly to Winner’s Trafalgar Square. Hawk had been ordered to the Hebrides from Singapore. Most of the smaller boats around her were chartered from Lewis. James Morrison, one of the hikers, itemised the mini economic boom that had bobbed in to Lewis with the rig: day rates for sailors, hotels booked out, all those minicab minutes ferrying oil execs back and forth from the airport. As sun and drizzle conspired to form a rainbow over Broad Bay, Morrison pointed out that, for a moment, Winner seemed to float at the end of it.

During the weeks of the rig’s stay on Lewis, there had been an unbargained-for turn in public opinion. Though initially seen as a poised steel spider, and a possible environmental threat, residents had by and large become fond of Winner. In pubs and on coastal paths, they discussed the progress of Tervoort’s salvage with an easy familiarity, as they did weather or tides. “Every day you look at it,” said Norman Macdonald, a taxi driver. “Wherever you drive round this part of the island, you look for the rig, to see how it’s doing.” When I called to book a room at a B&B, the proprietor asked if I’d like “a room with a rig view”. In a Lewis primary school, pupils made cardboard models of Winner, and Tervoort was invited to visit and judge them. If islanders had developed a coy affection for the oil rig, they had become openly adoring of the salvage master, and Tervoort rapidly advanced to local celebrity status. She was invited to take part in the island’s fun-run. She gave a hit lecture at a local university, about a salvor’s life.

It was Tervoort’s opinion that Winner would never survive being towed any serious distance, certainly not to the Mediterranean as planned, and so efforts were directed to get the rig on to the back of the heavy-lifting ship, Hawk. In a complicated process that would involve Hawk sinking herself into the water, drifting beneath the rig and then rising again, Winner would have to be lifted up and carried out of Scotland. They call this dry-towing. It happened in early October, after several false starts. Conditions had to be just right for Hawk to submerge and re-emerge, and islanders had several times gathered at vantage points to wave the rig away, only for the departure to be called off because of bad weather.

In the end, on 6 October, Winner left Lewis unobserved, stealing away in the dark, her departure as abrupt and even as dashing as her arrival. “I miss her,” said Laura Carse, the Dalmore surfer.

Strapped to Hawk, Winner moved south. She passed the outstretched fingers of mainland Scotland and patiently negotiated the busy shipping lanes of the Irish Sea. On 9 October the crafts passed the mouth of the Channel and then picked up speed, ripping through the Bay of Biscay in the better part of a day.

After a fortnight at sea, both vessels had passed by Spain and Portugal and were in horn-hailing distance of Africa. They sailed between Tangier and Gibraltar and into the Alboran Sea, then pressed on past Sardinia and into the Mediterranean. Standing tall on the deck of her carrier ship, Winner looked as cool and improbable as a heron crossing water on the back of a paddling hippo. Hawk and Winner made Maltese waters on 25 October, dropping anchor off the capital, Valletta. High in the water as she was, Winner was easily visible over the square, stone rooftops of this ancient city, and she drew many Maltese to the seafront. A sightseers’ boat, known as a luzzu, freighted with tourists, was piloted closer for a look.

At anchor in Malta, repair work was carried out on the rig’s damaged pontoons, while her owners exchanged export permissions with various authorities. Otherwise, Winner basked. It was bright and hot in the Mediterranean, and this old rig, once so profoundly chilled by North Sea winters that her steel would be painful to touch, at last warmed through. The Times of Malta sent a photographer to snap a northern celebrity come south to sunbathe. Carmel Pule, a retired professor of engineering, and also a keen sailor and ship-spotter, trained binoculars on Winner from the roof of his home. The 77-year-old had seen countless vessels come and go, Malta being a popular stopping point for shipping enterprise of every sort, and brisk handling of maritime paperwork a key part of the island economy. Pule could not recall seeing an oil rig come in piggy-back before. He got on his motorbike and rode to the coast. “Not beautiful to look at as individual craft,” he told his wife that evening, describing the trussed-together Winner and Hawk. But an appealing couple, “together for the sake of convenience, or a temporary love affair”.

Pule did it, I did it – we do this, as humans, we humanise seacraft. Vessels are christened under bottles of fizz. They’re given nicknames and ascribed character. Months after disembarking Winner for the last time, her crew could describe for me with precision, as if they were established personality traits, the rig’s distinctive pitch and roll, the chatter of her anchor chains in wind, the subtle but thrilling smell of helicopter fuel that came through the ventilation system to let them know a batch of letters and newspapers had arrived.

Meanwhile, in Malta, Pule kept a vigil on Winner from his roof, and sent me long emails in which he ruminated on the rig’s visible old age, on her retirement, on an end to the obvious usefulness of things; he did not always register a distinction between the vessel’s state and his own. Seacraft engender affinity, and perhaps only those who are obliged to take a wider perspective can remain entirely unromantic about them. The master salvor Sylvia Tervoort, who tended to meet vessels when something had gone dreadfully wrong with them, considered my question about whether she felt any affection towards the craft she had worked on and said: “Maybe if this was a movie.” When I spoke with Patrizia Heidegger of Shipbreaking Platform, she stressed that her organisation was concerned with the humanitarian and environmental burden of shipbreaking. As such, she was politely unenthusiastic about too much sentiment being spent on the boats.

On 24 October, a day before Winner’s arrival in Malta, Transocean had put out a statement to investors, confirming her sale as scrap. The company added that the rig would now be dismantled; “recycled” was their word. In describing a great, curling route out of Scandinavia, west and then south and then east (east, east) to the Med, Winner had passed 18 EU-approved facilities for shipbreaking, including those in Fosen in Norway, Grenaa in Denmark, Lowestoft in England, Bordeaux in France, Ghent in Belgium and Vinaroz in Spain. Unwanted sea junk does not often find its way to Europe, or stay long there. Had Winner been a fixed-drill platform, built into northern bedrock, exacting regulations and conventions would have insisted that this structure be dismantled and recycled in place. When an oil rig has an engine and a propeller, however – when she is classed as a vessel; a mobile she, not a stationary it – regulations can be outdistanced. Berths can be sought where conventions are not quite so stringent.

And to sail a condemned vessel east from Europe is to adjust the financials of a demolition substantially. A secondhand vessel is currently worth about $190 per tonne to a shipbreaking yard in Turkey, a price established by the local market in reclaimed steel. Sail on to China and a different market, and the same metal is worth $210 per tonne. At breakers’ yards in Alang in India, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Gadani in Pakistan, they will pay around $280 per tonne. Meanwhile, at the EU-approved shipbreaking sites, which are bound to conform to continental waste laws, and where vessels are dismantled in closed-off quays or dry docks, rates are less competitive: European yards offer zero dollars per tonne, and, in fact, tend to ask a fee to take a shipowners’ junk. Of the 864 vessels that were dismantled around the world last year, nine were dismantled in Europe. Give or take a dozen (sent to Mexico, the Philippines, Russia and South Korea), the remainder went to breaking yards in Turkey, China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has for some years tracked the movements of surplus ships to these sites, finding it necessary, over time, to start documenting human as well as vessel expiry. They add to their records the blunt, dire summaries of a tragedy every time a shipbreaker is killed in an accident anywhere in the world. Chaudhry Baliram Indrajit, crushed by a crane in Alang in January 2016. Muhammad Asif, killed by fire in Gadani in March 2016. Shibbir Ahmed and Jalal Uddin, both of whom fell to their deaths in Chittagong in July 2016. There are dozens of such deaths every year, the majority of them in yards in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where men and boys pick apart vessels without appropriate tools or safety equipment, assuming terrific risks. As Winner underwent repairs in Malta, that October, the tally of acknowledged deaths in 2016 stood at 30, all in yards in south Asia.

Of those 864 vessels sent for demolition that year, 668 went to yards in that region. “The incentive is to go to south Asia,” said Patrizia Heidegger of Shipbreaking Platform, “because the highest price paid per tonne is there.” Whether individual shipowners took up that incentive depended, in her view, on a moral-financial reckoning. How much they cared about profits, as against how much they cared. “The reason you have owners going to beaches in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is money,” said Petter Heier, head of Grieg Green, a subsidiary of the Norwegian maritime group Grieg established to promote and advise on responsible shipbreaking. Since 2010, Heier has sought to persuade divesting owners to send their excess to one of a group of vetted breaking yards in Turkey and China, rather than the higher-paying, less-audited yards in south Asia. Heier continued: “There are major accidents in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh every week. No company wants to be associated with that. So they sell through middlemen. They change the name of their vessels. They try to hide their [radar] tracking.”

These evasions infuriate the watchdog groups in their efforts to hold a shadowy industry to account, but do not always scuttle them. For instance, Shipbreaking Platform had laboriously tracked through its final movements a German-owned cargo ship called HS Colon, which happened to arrive in Malta at the same time as Winner. While at anchor in the Mediterranean, HS Colon disappeared. When the NGO caught up with her, she had undergone a brisk identity change, shedding the initials that linked her to her former owners, Hansa Treuhand, and was heading for Alang under the name of Colo. That month, a tanker called Gaz Fountain was bought for scrap by a yard in Gadani. Before she sailed, Gaz Fountain became Rain. On 9 January this year, Rain caught fire during demolition on a Pakistani beach, killing five workers. A few weeks earlier, in November, another ship had exploded at Gadani, killing at least 27 workers.

Still astride Hawk, Winner left Maltese waters on 27 October. She moved east towards Crete and wove between a scattering of Aegean islands. She was bound for Turkey, and a place on its west coast called Aliaga, where the Turkish shipbreaking industry is based.

This was an expensive choice of destination by Transocean. Around $80 or $90 per tonne in value had been foregone, more than $1m in total, compared with what might have been wrangled for Winner from a yard in south Asia. Petter Heier at Grieg Green said he believed that – slowly, gradually – owners such as Transocean were coming to acknowledge the longer-term, intangible gains of careful disposal, even if this meant shorter-term, tangible loss. “Insurance companies are putting pressure on shipowners to recycle responsibly. Their employees are putting pressure. Society is putting pressure.” In the case of Transocean, Heier offered an opinion (“a personal opinion”) that the company was further influenced in its thinking by its involvement in the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. When it exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Deepwater Horizon was contracted, notoriously, to BP. But it was Transocean’s rig.

“I would guess Deepwater Horizon triggered something,” Heier said. “They are very careful [now], that if something happens with them on the beach in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan, that might ruin their name in the market.” When I expressed surprise that Winner should have departed Malta still a Winner, without a change of identity in the manner of Colon or Gaz Fountain, Heier said: “They didn’t change the name because they didn’t need to hide anything. They chose a good yard.”

They lit up the shore with flares on the day the rig came in at Aliaga. This was to acknowledge the end of a three-week journey that had ended up taking three months, and to show a pack of tugboats – now that Winner was off the submerged Hawk and being pulled and pushed towards the beach – just where to put her. The float-off took place at lunchtime on 5 November. Winner had a token crew again: representatives from Transocean and SMIT back aboard for the final tow. Guiding flares on the shore, at least from Winner’s deck, appeared only as spots of fire among hundreds. Aliaga beach was aflame – in the shallows, where carcasses of ships and rigs were disassembled by spark-showering blowtorches, and in the narrow yards beyond, where amputated pieces were further torched. Dense smoke filled the air above the yards.

From the water, it must have appeared to the uninitiated that Aliaga had been freshly, plentifully bombed; perhaps doused and jumbled by tidal waves, too. In fact, this was a normal working day on the beach. At its western edge, a Del Monte fruit boat had been perfectly halved. To the east was a cargo carrier, Modern Express, that had some months earlier been abandoned by her crew while stricken and drifting in the Bay of Biscay. Nearby were two demobbed frigates, recently owned by the Spanish navy. Winner was put in next to the halved Del Monte boat, on a part of the beach owned by a local shipbreaking company called Isiksan.

Isiksan’s foreman, a muscular 30-year-old Istanbulite named Hüsseyin Essen, sailed out to meet the rig. Essen had been the foreman here when Isiksan accepted its first oil rig for demolition, in early 2015. Ocean Concord had shown up 200 metres from the shore, and when Essen and his colleagues sailed out to meet her, they had no idea what to do next. Ever since they started shipbreaking in Aliaga in the 1970s, vessels had been brought ashore using a method known as “beaching”; that is, they were piloted inland and made to mount the beach at speed. (Trembling phone footage from 2013 of a ferry being beached in an explosion of smoke and water has been viewed more than 3m times on YouTube.) With the sterns half-ashore, breakers could then cut in and dismantle the ships laterally, as a snacker might eat through a baguette. But oil rigs were not fast enough or strong enough for beaching. “We didn’t know what the hell we were going to do,” Essen said. There was an idea to work on Concord at sea. In the end, heavy chains were tied around her legs and connected via winches to powerful vehicles on the shore. Concord was hauled through the shallows like a struggling fish. Through many oil rig landings since, this method had proved fine. Winner, towed and carried and storm-propelled on this fantastically harried trip east, would be dragged the last metres by straining bulldozers.

Unlike the colossal breakers’ beaches of south Asia, or the disparate yards scattered around coastal China, Turkish shipbreaking is packed close in one place, concentrated entirely on this government-allotted mile of coast on the outskirts of Aliaga. The beach here has been divided into as many slim, neighbouring yards as will fit – 25 of them. Considering its comparative scale, Aliaga should be a minor consumer of the world’s excess sea-tonnage. But since Ocean Concord arrived 18 months ago, it has established itself, improbably, as the world’s foremost consumer of oil rigs. Something like 300,000 tonnes of unwanted rig had been brought here – Hunter and Yatzy and JW McLean and John Shaw and Southern Cross and Aleutian Key and Amirante and Scarabeo 4 and Arctic I and Arctic III – as well as that pair of young Enscos, the two rigs that were barely a decade old when they were sent by their owners for disposal. The Isiksan yard, its opening on to the Aegean no wider than an average-sized rig, had undertaken most of the demolitions. Petter Heier of Grieg Green, which advised Transocean on these latter stages of the disposal, said Isiksan had been chosen because of this expertise.

It was expertise hard-won. Essen and his colleagues learned over the months that the best way to scrap a rig was to deposit a group of blowtorchers on the upper deck (carrying them there in a crane-hoisted cage) and then to let them burn their way downwards. The process took months, but because more men could get at more vessel on a rig than on a beached ship, and because rigs tended to have cranes that could be co-opted into the effort of self-destruction, Essen’s scrappers were getting faster and faster at their work. With Winner, they targeted the helipad first, weakening it with blowtorches before a crane came in to pick it clean away. Winner’s galley went next, then half her accommodation block. A fortnight into the demolition, the horizontal decks were still in place, but the walls between had been so gnawed at that Winner looked liked one of the cut-away diagrams sketched by Hader Liden at his drawing board decades earlier.

The rig’s sale to Isiksan was formalised and finalised the moment she came off the back of Hawk. In the words of Isiksan’s young chief, a 26-year-old Aliagan named Soner Sari, Winner was a “cooked meal”, in that she had been brought to the yard whole and the workers there only had to digest her. They did this by cutting 50-tonne pieces off her, lifting these pieces into the yard, where the steel could be separated from everything else, then trucking off this valuable metal in one-metre-squared pieces that would be sold to a foundry nearby. Not all vessels in Aliaga were “cooked meals”. Other deals struck by Sari specified that Isiksan must fetch unwanted craft from wherever they had outlasted their use. These agreements, known in the industry as “cash-buyer” deals, could be profitable – but they were also risky. Early in 2016, an old ship called Bannock had been cash-bought by Sari from her owners in Italy. Sailed into the Matapan Sea, bound for Aliaga, Bannock had quickly listed and capsized, ceasing to exist in the old-fashioned way, by sinking to the bottom. “That was a shitty feeling,” Sari said.

We were sitting in his office on the yard, watching the slow destruction of Winner through a picture window. Boyish, dark, smartly dressed, Sari sometimes threw out his hands when he spoke, showing a bracelet on each wrist, one of them decorated with pictures of turtles. He had a Range Rover parked outside, in which we had driven together from central Aliaga, passing various chemical factories, oil refineries and foundries. Closer to the breakers’ beach, an informal flea market of maritime bric-a-brac had been established, where traders sold recovered items from the dismantled ships. Sari continued: “When we buy in a faraway port it’s cheaper, because we’re taking certain risks, and if it works out, we’ll we make money for taking those risks.” On his phone he had photographs of Bannock sinking. “At that point, your company’s $20m – or whatever you’ve paid – is gone. Poof. It hurts.”

Sari did not want to say exactly how much Isiksan had paid Transocean for the right to scrap Winner. Estimating based on local market rates, it could have been as much as $3.5m, though Sari only allowed that it was a seven-figure sum, and that Isiksan expected to turn a profit on the recovered steel. Parts other than a rig’s steel could also be valuable to a breaking firm – for instance, any deck cranes that were in resellable condition. The lifeboats that came stitched to vessels could also be sold on to the bric-a-brac guys beyond the yard. Hundreds waited to be sold there, bordering the road like giant orange crash barriers.

The death and life of the great British pub
Through Sari’s office window, we looked at a newly removed piece of Winner’s accommodation block, which had just been brought up into the yard. It might once have been a section of corridor, and electric cabling and insulation foam still clung to its steel walls. A hydraulic excavator started tossing and rolling it in the dirt – cartwheeling it over and over to shake away the wire and the foam. By the end of the day, Sari judged, that steel would be on a foundry floor. About $3,000 worth, he said, pricing it by eye.

While we drank strong, tarry coffee, we discussed the environmental consequences of shipbreaking. It was no coincidence, Sari said, that Aliaga’s yards were huddled up beside refineries and foundries. Heavy industry had been moved to Aliaga en masse in the 1970s, “because the government wanted to wrap it up in one area, keep everything else nice”. Sari acknowledged that the local yards had not always upheld the strictest standards when it came to minimising environmental damage, but he was working to change that. Beneath the Isiskan yard he had installed a drainage system to catch and pump off pollutants. Down in the water there were brightly coloured booms, bobbing in a circle around Winner’s legs, there in theory to stop any floating waste from getting out into the Aegean. A confidential 2015 report by the shipping consultancy Litehauz, obtained by journalists from the investigative agency Danwatch last year, detailed the potential impact of ships that were torch-cut on tidal water. The report estimated that for every 10,000 tonnes of vessel torched, about 120 tonnes of molten steel and two tonnes of chipped-away paint escaped into the sea. Sari insisted that the water off Isiksan’s yard was regularly tested for pollutants. When I asked if he would swim out there, he thought for a moment and answered: “Why not?” Petter Heier of Grieg Green said his company had audited the Isiksan yard and found its environmental procedures acceptable. Look, Sari said, it might be distasteful, but somebody had to get rid of shipowners’ garbage. He gestured at the yard through the window. In his view, it was better that it happened out there than on the deadly beaches of Alang or Chittagong. He had applied for European recognition for the Isiksan yard, hoping to see it added to a list of EU-approved shipbreaking sites.

We took a walk together through the yard, where the immediate noise was at first so much to contend with – the guttural, football-crowd “Ooooh!” of ignited blowtorches, the grating complaint of metal on metal, bulldozer rumbles, generator whines – that I put off the matter of sights until a second lap. In the reddish-brown dust, fine as powder in places, a combination of soil and dirt and tiny coloured chips of paint, I found a Norwegian chocolate bar called a Stratos, still in its packaging. Nearby was a plastic shoehorn, apparently flung from the cartwheeling corridor, and a takeaway menu from a Chinese restaurant in Lewis. The discoveries increased in size – a gas mask, a boot, a barrel on fire, a pile of fire extinguishers, a larger mountain of green and white foam – until we were standing beside great, upright sections of mud pipe, tall enough for a person to walk through, cut into giant, swiss-roll slices and now being lifted into the bed of a truck.

Early in Winner’s demolition, a big, square piece of her decking, like the mat of a boxing ring, had been retained because it was flat and smooth and would skim briskly through the dusty yard when dragged behind a bulldozer. It now served as a carrying palette for the rig’s disparate amputations, and brought sliding up from the shore an entire utility closet, placed upside down. An equipment rack on the closet’s outer wall was slung with vices, chains and thick bolts the size of milk bottles. A sign above the inverted door warned that it might close violently at sea. When I tried to step inside, Sari said: “Uh, don’t go in there yet.” He indicated that parts of the room were so freshly torched that they were still smouldering.

Airhorns sounded: lunch. I walked among yellow-helmeted breakers – about 70 of them were rostered to work today – as they streamed off Winner. The men I met lived locally. They said they earned wages of about $1,300 a month. According to investigations by Asli Odman, a member of Labour Watch Turkey, there had been at least 10 fatal accidents in the various yards of Aliaga since 2010. On the oil-refining ship Kuito, being dismantled at a neighbouring yard in 2015, a worker fell into the hold and died. On the cruise ship Pacific, dismantled by Izmir Ship Recycling Co in 2013, two workers were poisoned by carbon monoxide. I asked a 31-year-old Isiksan employee named Zafer Erdem, who operated a crane, whether he felt any fear whenever the next new rig arrived for demolition. No, said Erdem, when a rig came in he thought: work, two or three months of it. Erdem and his colleague Kamil Conge, a 45-year-old field manager, had a combined 30 years of experience on the beach. An inch beneath the dirt, Conge said, there was a layer of concrete that extended most of the way to the shore – a recent addition, before which the yard became a muddy horror whenever it rained. In those days, Conge said, a ship “could take a year to dismantle”. I was told there had been injuries to workers in the Isiksan yard; accidental scorchings was the example given. Everyone remembered the recent death on Kuito, along the beach. Work stopped for a day in a show of respect.

Not far from the mess hall, in the mud, I came across something colourful – a Norwegian consumer magazine, six years out of date and splayed open at an article about red wines. A 26-year-old yard worker called Omer Dogan, about to skip lunch and go to prayers at a nearby mosque, said they had sometimes found “funnier stuff” on incoming oil rigs. Omer reddened, not wanting to say pornography. Hüsseyin Essen told me he had many times come across collections of family photographs. Sari was once inspecting a brought-in trawler when he found a full outfit of ski gear in a cupboard. The Spanish frigates had come to Aliaga, he said, stripped of computers, but still with several missile launchers intact. Sari liked it best when they found a certain type of brass valve on ships. Isiksan owned a small foundry that processed non-ferrous metals, mostly salvaged bronze, which would be melted down and fashioned into storm valves, for resale to the shipbuilding industry. Sometimes, Isiksan’s valves found their way back to Isiksan, got removed and were melted down again. I mentioned to Sari that I had met a man on the Isle of Lewis, an eccentric local professor called Arne Vögler, who had led a volunteer mission to scour the waters of Dalmore Bay after Winner had gone. Vögler, searching for debris that might harm the environment, had ended up fishing out Winner’s enormous propeller. He joked to me about installing it as garden furniture. Hearing this, Sari raised an eyebrow. “I wondered where that propeller had gone,” he said, and sniffed. “Brass alloy. Tell the guy he owes me $50,000.”

At the water’s edge, the big steel carrying palette waited in the dirt. Sari stood on one of its upturned corners, hands in his pockets, bouncing on the flexible metal. The Aegean lapped at Winner’s ruptured pontoons. From here I could see the intricate patterning of rust up the oil rig’s legs – grades of peach, grey, green, black and bleach-white stains, recording, as if they were a sailor’s tattoos, Winner’s many tours in the North Sea. I knew from studying Hadar Liden’s sketches that the thick legs were actually hollow, with ladders inside them to provide a route between the decks and the pontoons in case of emergency. In Aliaga, a doorway had been torched in one of these forward legs, and square windows cut at intervals up to the deck, so that when his workers climbed, Sari said, they didn’t have to do so in the dark.

I suggested that I try climbing up the inside of Winner myself. “No,” said Sari. By this point I was accustomed to being refused requests to get aboard the rig. “No,” he continued, “I’ve tried going up by the ladder and it’s like scaling a 10-storey building. Better take the cage.”

He signalled to an operator in a nearby crane, who answered by rotating and depositing on the shore a carry-cage about the size of a couple of telephone boxes, painted blood-red. I stepped inside and held on to the cage’s central pole, like a commuter on a bus, as it was hoisted fast into the air, spinning through several terrible rotations before settling into a queasy, side-to-side sway. Before landing the cage on the rig, the crane swung me high and wide above the beach, so that for the first time I could see the full, fiery chaos of Aliaga. The fruit boats and frigates and oil rigs were not going quietly, but inchingly, they were going; and soon their berths on the shore would be filled by the next redundant or repented-of thing.

Back in his office, I had asked Sari what would happen when the world’s fleet had been adequately thinned, when there were no more superfluous rigs for him to buy and dismantle. He said he expected this to happen soon. “Next year? The year after?” As rigs disappeared, rates to hire the remaining ones would rise and, eventually, an incautious oil industry would find an economic (if not glowingly ethical) equilibrium. “And we’ll go looking for the next thing.” Sari had in mind a smaller type of oil platform known as a jack-up, of which there were many hundreds filling the seas. “Cold-stacked all over, no jobs, no prospects of jobs …”

I asked him if it ever seemed a pity to break up such monumental and characterful structures. Did he look at Winner in the way that I had come to look at her, in the way her former crew looked at her, as something dignified? Sari said the only emotion he could feel about Winner was relief, when she was gone, on schedule. But not long ago, he acknowledged, he had had a wobble. It was over those two young Ensco rigs – Ensco 6003 and 6004 – that had come out of Brazilian waters. When Sari won the right to scrap them, he took the unusual decision to sail the rigs under their own power from South America to Turkey. “I piloted one myself, for the last mile to Aliaga. I wanted to try it out.” Sari mimed adjusting thrusters, striking buttons. “Everything was like new, all the controls.” They demolished Ensco 6003 and 6004 over the course of about 10 weeks. “Beautiful machines. Beautiful machines,” Sari said.

On the Transocean Winner
The cage was lowered on to Winner’s deck, where it smelled of propane and singed steel, of grease and hydraulic fuel. Disorientatingly, here, the rig’s insides were outside, so that a payphone that had once stood in the accommodation block was now upright and exposed in the open air. Two ping-pong balls, mysterious survivors of the long voyage, juddered on the payphone’s coin shelf. Nearby, blowtorchers cut their way out from inside a cabin, and above them a deputation of breakers directed liquid from a hose into a vat marked “Chemical Spill”. Thinking of the geologist Brit Fredheim, and her evening constitutionals around the rig, I set off to walk Winner’s circumference.

All along the perimeter fence were signs that ordered “Respect this barrier”, signs that continued until the barrier fell away completely, mangled, torn and disrespected by the storm back in the Hebrides. I moved towards the interior, passing pools of standing water on the corrugated floor, and crater-bursts of rust where it was dry. Someone had left a dozen eggs on the floor by a ladder. There were stacks of dusty computer towers in a cupboard, and orange lifejackets that filled two bath-sized tubs to the brim. In a windowless office, where there were two leather-effect chairs and a tacked-up poster of a motorbike, I found a whiteboard on which somebody had written “Crew 6 says goodbye”. Below, on a shelf, there was a leather-bound logbook, neatly filled with the signatures of men and women who had seen through a particular watch on Winner. There were pages and pages of names, going back to the early 1990s. I considered stealing the book, or adding my own signature. In the end, I put it back on the shelf, to be destroyed with the rest. Outside, I passed Zafer Erdem in his crane, merrily terrorising a piece of racking at the base of the derrick. We waved.

By the end of November, Winner had been stripped of everything above the midriff, bar her derrick. This was pulled down on 3 December, then chained to bulldozers, which laboured until the tower toppled forward; instead of landing on an outstretched jetty that was meant to catch the pieces, it twisted and crashed pinnacle-first into the shallows. Once the pieces had been fished out, work resumed to reduce the rig’s legs. By mid-December, Winner amounted to little more than a pair of pontoons under blackened stumps, the dwindling structure kept stable by thin strips of horizontal decking, so that it resembled a pair of ice skates strung together by the laces. By Christmas Day, only the pontoons were left. These were dragged out of the water and into the dirt so that another unwanted rig, Transocean Driller, could be parked on the slipway behind. Winner’s port-side pontoon was sliced up and trucked away in the first days of January. Very likely, by this point, there were swirls of the rig’s old steel in the refashioned blocks and beams that were leaving the local foundries, to be sold on for use in construction projects around the Turkish interior.

On 5 January, something curious happened on Aliaga beach. Winner’s final piece, her starboard pontoon, was half gone. Snow began to fall, rare in this part of Turkey, carrying on for four days and keeping the breakers from their work. A reprieve – days in which Winner was left out and unmolested, in weather she knew well. By the following week, the snow had gone and the cutting resumed. The last of the pontoon was lifted on to a truck on 13 January, and smelted that afternoon.

Source: the guardian. 02 May 2017