Cruise ships dismantled for scrap metal as pandemic sinks industry

cruise ships

The cruise industry provided 75,050 jobs and hosted 25.8 million passengers in 2017. [1] It’s safe to say that people enjoy cruising, but with the wake of COVID-19, the industry is dying. Cruise ships can no longer find work and they are being dismantled and sold as scrap metal. 

The coronavirus has put a halt to many businesses, even making some go bankrupt. As many predicted, small businesses have suffered a major blow, but no one expected a global industry to be literally dismantled.  

Cruises During the Coronavirus Pandemic 

The cruise industry suffered a blow right from the outbreak. Cruise ships were often Petri dishes for the virus due to large numbers of people in close proximity.  

The ship Ruby Princess was a well-known case of this. When it docked in Sydney on March 19, 2020, about 2700 people disembarked. Already, 130 crew members and passengers had flu-like symptoms and tested for COVID-19. However, everyone else was allowed to leave the ship before the test results came in. The next day, four of those people tested positive. By March 27, 162 of the passengers who disembarked had the coronavirus. The catastrophe from this ship was linked to at least 28 deaths.  

Before that, on February 3, the cruise the Diamond Princess was quarantined in the port of Yokohama, Japan. Just over a month later, another ship, the Grand Princess, was quarantined near the coast of California. At least 25 more cruise ships had confirmed cases by March 17. [2]  

Mistakes Were Made

After a three-month halt, cruise ships began sailing again — to more bad results. (Except for the United States. In March, the U.S. authorities banned the sailing of cruise ships and those orders still stand.) The Hurtigruten cruise line was the first to begin again. Despite increased safety protocols, by July 17, hundreds of passengers tested positive.  

“We have made mistakes,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement. “A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures.” [3] 

This scenario repeated itself with other cruises internationally. By August, it was clear the industry was running into the ground as expensive overhead costs continued to pile up with no income. [4] 

Unfortunately, the answer came in the form of a metal compactor.

Read: Carnival Executives Knew They Had a Virus Problem, But Kept the Party Going

Dismantling Cruises

By October, aerial footage showed workers stripping cruises of their walls, windows, railings, and floors, while they docked in on Turkey’s west coast. 

Chairman of a ship recycling industrialists’ association, Kamil Onal, explained that this ship-breaking yard usually dealt with cargo and container ships. “But after the pandemic, cruise ships changed course towards Aliaga in a very significant way,” he said. “There was growth in the sector due to the crisis. When the ships couldn’t find work, they turned to dismantling.” 

These ships came from the United States, Italy, and Britain.  

Mr. Onal said that about 2500 people work the yard in teams and it takes about six months to take apart a full passenger ship. 

The volume of reclaimed steel accounted for 700,000 tons in January, but the shipyard aimed to increase that to 1.1 million tons by the end of 2020. [5] 

The No-Sail Ban in the U.S. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, the no-sail ban will last at least until October 31 at least, although the CDC originally proposed it to go on until February. 

“Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that cruise ship travel continues to transmit and amplify the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC said in a press release, “even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities—and would likely spread the infection into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States.” [6] 

This was met with acquiescence from the trade organization that represents the cruise industry, the Cruise Lines International Association. They made an announcement that “demonstrates the cruise industry’s commitment to public health and willingness to voluntarily suspend operations in the interest of public health and safety,” the group wrote in an August 5th statement. [7] 

Public health and safety should be first and foremost in situations such as these but only time will tell what will become of the cruise industry after this pandemic. 

Keep Reading: Carnival Cruise Caught Dumping Food and Plastic Waste into the Ocean
  1. “2018 Cruise Industry Overview.” FCCA
  1. “The cruise industry and the COVID-19 outbreak.” Hirohito Ito, Shinya Hanaoka, Tomoya Kawasakic. Science Direct. May 2020 
  1. “’We Have Made Mistakes’: Norway Cruise Company Reports COVID-19 Outbreak.” Ian Stewart. NPR.  August 3, 2020 
  1. “At least 3 cruise ships are battling coronavirus outbreaks as the industry’s return hits a rocky start.” Graham Rapier. Business Insider. Aug 5, 2020 
  1. “Cruise ships dismantled for scrap metal as coronavirus pandemic sinks industry.” ABC News. October 11, 2020 
  1. “CLIA and Its Ocean-Going Cruise Line Members Announce Third Voluntary Suspension of U.S. Operations.” CLIA. August 5, 2020 
  1. “Cruises in U.S. waters halted until at least November, CDC says.” Erika Edwards. NBC News. October 1, 2020 

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