Nearly four decades after the Alang ship-breaking yard was set up on the Gulf of Khambhat coast in Gujarat, the state government is preparing a master plan to equip the country’s biggest ship recycling yard to take on more work.

“Currently there are 153 plots at Alang where ageing ships are beached to be broken down. We will be adding another 50 plots, as per the new master plan, which is being prepared for the entire Alang region in Bhavnagar district,” an official of Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) says. The additional plots can double the ship recycling capacity of Alang from 4.5 million light displacement tonnage (LDT) to 9 million LDT.

Alang is currently equipped to recycle 400-450 ships a year. On an average it has been producing 3.5 million tonnes of steel annually from recycling about 200 ships.

“We will be expanding the capacity of Alang in two phases. In the first phase we will make some changes in regulations to attract more ships to Alang. We will also try to operationalise the vacant plots at Alang. In the second phase, as per the new master plan for Alang region, we will be adding new ship-breaking plots,” says the official, who declined to be named.

The 153 plots at Alang are spread along a 10-km stretch of the beach, which extends almost up to Sosiya village. Of these plots, 131 are “operational”, while the rest are vacant and have not been leased out. The Gujarat government now plans to acquire more land in the neighbouring Mathavada village and convert it into 50 additional plots for the Alang ship-breaking yard.

However, workers point out that business at Alang has been on a decline since 2011-12. From 415 ships with 3.8 million LDT for recycling, the work dwindled to 187 ships in 2020-21. The numbers improved a bit at 209 ships in 2021-22, before dipping again to 137 ships in 2022-23.

The ship-breaking numbers for the current financial year are yet to be made public, but members of the Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA) say that increased competition from ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the higher charges imposed by GMB have hit the fortunes of Alang’s ship-breaking industry.