The Ghost Fleet Landscape
Emily Schlickman (MLA I)
This study attempts to compare two landscapes that have been engaged in the dismantling and recycling of ships: Chittagong, Bangladesh and Brownsville, Texas. These locations offer unique case studies within the industry, representing the shift from international to domestic disposal practices.
In Chittagong, the facilities stretch for nearly 10 miles along the coastline of the Bay of Bengal. When a vessel arrives for disposal, it is first anchored in international waters before being beached during hide tide. Once stable on the long, flat, intertidal zone, thousands of laborers dismantle the vessels and transport the resulting material to nearby rolling mills for reconditioning. The recycled steel is then used for a number of purposes including regional infrastructure such as highways, bridges, and urban development.
In the United States, many decommissioned vessels are “mothballed” in ghost fleets while awaiting disposal or reactivation. Once ready for disposal, many of these vessels make their way to Brownsville, Texas – 3 miles from the border of Mexico – to be dismantled. The ship breaking operations take place at the mouth of the Rio Grande Delta, home to a number of ecologically productive lagoons. Here, the ships are dismantled in slips located at the end of a 17-mile channel.
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