Taiwan is the last port of call for a third of the merchant ships which ply the oceans of the world.
GV PAN Ships moored at Kaohsiung Harbour (2 shots)
GV ZOOM BACK Ship partly in dry dock being scrapped
GV Bow of ship with acetylene torch flame coming through hull
CU Welding flame cutting through steel
GV Men with flame torches cutting through inside structure of ship
GV PAN over ships in scrap yard
CU Ship being dismantled by crane (2)
CU Flame cutting through ship's hull
SV Debris falling
CU Traction belt operating crane
GV Chunk of ship falling into water
CU Men attaching hook to hull section and lorry removing section (2 shots)
GV PAN OVER Kaohsiung Harbour showing crap metal from ships
GV Section of ship being hauled by crane
GV Activity in scrap yard with smelter in background
GV PAN Ships in harbour awaiting scrapheap
Initials SC/1859 SC/2043
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Background: 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.