Taiwan is the last port of call for a third of the merchant ships which ply the oceans of the world.
Taiwan is the last port of call for a third of the merchant ships which ply the oceans of the world. At the port of Kaohsiung (pronounced Cow-shung), the ships are unceremoniously stripped of their fittings and scrapped in a huge naval graveyard.
The life-span of a ship is 20 to 25 years. By then, their steel hulls are tired, their bulkheads are creaking, and their engines have become uneconomical to run. The demand for the ferrous metals in the ships' hulls eventually makes them worth more dead than alive -- a demand that has brought Taiwan a very profitable income in recent years.
Some 250 ships were dismantled at Kaohsiung on the southern tip of the island last year. They yielded two million tons of scrap -- enough to supply 70 per cent of the iron and steel for Taiwan's construction and machinery industries.
The low cost of shipwrecking in Taiwan brought the country business from Japan and Hong Kong which were the leaders in the field. Now Taiwan rates first, followed by Spain. The United States, which builds eighty per cent of the world's ships, ranks third.